There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. In the Book of Isaiah 11:2-3, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are described. In the passage, the gifts are considered ones that the Messiah would have possessed. Through Jesus, we also receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each gift perfects certain basic virtues. Four of them perfect the intellectual virtues. Understanding gives an intuitive look into truth. Wisdom perfects charity, in order to judge divine things. Knowledge perfects the virtue of hope. The gift of counsel perfects prudence. The other three gifts perfect virtues of will and appetites. The gift of piety perfects justice in giving to others what is their due. This is especially true of giving God what is His due. Fortitude perfects the virtue of fortitude, in facing dangers. Fear of the Lord perfects temperance in controlling disordered appetites. It’s important that we not only know what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are, but that we also know how to use them.
Wisdom helps us recognize the importance of others and the importance of keeping God central in our lives. St. Bernard calls wisdom the “supernatural Gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to know God and to rejoice in perfect love.” It is considered the highest gift of the Holy Spirit. It not only enlightens the mind, but also directs the heart to purer, deeper love for God. Wisdom rightly forms our desires so that we take greater delight in the Divine and grow in longing for heavenly treasure. Wisdom helps to sever our more worldly attachments.
Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of God’s message. The gift of understanding enables us to know and comprehend the mysteries of faith more clearly. God desires to sanctify our souls and draw us closer to Himself; so He grants the interior light of understanding to deepen our insight into the Divine mysteries and animate us to serve Him more perfectly. Through understanding we are more able to grasp the meaning of revealed truths and, through them, to be stirred into a more active faith life. In this way, our faith ceases to be sterile, but inspires a mode of life that bears testimony to the faith that is in us.
Knowledge is the ability to think about and explore God’s revelation, and also to recognize there are mysteries of faith beyond us. Through the gift of knowledge, the soul is more able to evaluate created things at their true worth in relation to God. Knowledge reveals the emptiness of creatures outside of their relationship with the Creator and their purpose as instruments in service to God. It also shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him without reference to our circumstances. Guided by the light of knowledge, we put first-things-first, and value our relationship with God beyond all else.
Counsel is the ability to see the best way to follow God’s plan when we have choices that relate to Him. The gift of counsel moves the soul to choose what will most glorify God and lead to his own salvation. Through this Gift, we learn how we can best please God. Following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit grants us true interior peace and spiritual consolation. Counsel is especially necessary for those who are in positions of leadership, since at such levels of responsibility, natural prudence sometimes does not suffice. We need counsel in the roles as parents, teachers, political leaders and even simply citizens.
Fortitude is the courage to do what one knows is right. This particular gift of the Holy Spirit destroys all natural fear, timidity and human respect. It strengthens souls to despise sin and to practice virtue. Fortitude enables souls to prefer contempt, temporal loss, persecution and even death over the denial of Christ by word or deed. It empowers us to oppose and overcome the enemies of our salvation and to live according to the will of God even in spite of temptation, difficulties and persecutions. It prepares to face great sacrifices for our salvation with courage.
Piety helps us pray to God in true devotion. The gift of piety or godliness infuses reverence for God and Divine things into our souls and gives us joy in prayer. Through piety, the Holy Spirit inclines us to love God as our perfect and loving Father, to love more deeply His dearly beloved Son. Piety moves us not only to love of the Saints and Angels, but also to love our fellow man, as the images and children of God. It causes us to feel the sweetest pleasure in conversing with God, in listening to spiritual reading and in hearing the Divine Word. The pious soul delights to do the will of the Father and constantly has at heart all that tends to the honor and glory of God.
Fear of the Lord
Fear of the Lord is the feeling of amazement before God, who is all-present, and whose friendship we do not want to lose. There are two kinds of fear: the fear of a servant and the fear of a child. Of the two, childlike fear of God is the more noble and beautiful. It urges the soul to avoid even the least sin in order not to displease God, our loving and caring Father. Fear of the Lord is that childlike fear which causes us to dread no misfortune so much as that of a displeasing God, making us flee from sin as the greatest evil. The Saints were animated by childlike fear and love for the Heavenly Father and were ready to die rather than break His holy law by willful sin.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is a privilege, given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. Once you accept Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism, you will receive this gift. With this privilege comes great responsibility. With the Holy Spirit guiding us, we must seek earnestly to remove ourselves from a context of sin, and obey the commands of God. Our thoughts and our actions should build up the kingdom of God. Just as the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too as Christians can enjoy the fullness, greatness and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, and enhancing our relationship with God. Accept the Holy Spirit at work in your life today.
Lesli White is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth with a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and a concentration in print and online journalism. In college, she took a number of religious studies courses and harnessed her talent for storytelling. White has a rich faith background. Her father, a Lutheran pastor and life coach was a big influence in her faith life, helping her to see the value of sharing the message of Christ with others. She has served in the church from an early age. Some of these roles include assisting ministry, mutual ministry, worship and music ministry and church council.