Spirit Gifts (Even When We Struggle)

This year there won't be a special cake or even the fruits of the spirit salad for Pentecost.  This year we have a First Holy Communion party for 2 nephews and a niece and we will be celebrating with them there.  Last night was the last day of the Novena of Seven Gifts that Brian and I had been praying together.  It was his idea to pray it which was neat and so I followed his lead.  I found that I really appreciated it as we went along and loved its layout.  According to EWTN it is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church.  I wanted to share with you the descriptions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that it includes.  I found it really helpful and maybe you will as well.  It's interesting to take account of gifts that we've opened and are using and those that we need to ask for a greater share of and live more fully.  

Fear of the Lord
The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. "They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls."

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

By the gift of Fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to under take without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved."

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth--in their relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. "Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it."

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to "walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

I've been thinking a lot the past few months about what a life in the Holy Spirit looks like.  I don't think my life does, to be honest.  I grumble too much, get angry too much, feel sorry for myself too much, ahem, analyze too much, and so on.  I know I still have so very much that needs to be healed and transformed by His Spirit.  I also know that He's done a lot with me thus far and that He has worked in and through me a whole lot in this little life of mine.  I pray I can be an open vessel for Him more fully than I ever have been.  I know it's possible, despite my temptation to doubt that my issues and sins will ever get out of the way enough for that to happen.  I want to be one of those people that by just being in their presence, you KNOW they know Christ and it permeates everything about them.

Yesterday was a hard day in so very many ways.  Emotionally, spiritually, physically, and any other -ly you can think of.  I was reminded over and over of how weak I truly am and how much more I need to throw everything at His feet and pray, or rather beg, for help.  But He is so much bigger than all of this.  So much bigger than my sins, my issues, my limitations, the thoughts that disturb my peace.  He yearns to pour out His Spirit more and more upon this life of mine.  And His Spirit is a spirit of power and grace, a Spirit that can transform even my deepest vice and ugliness.  And when those things threaten to overtake today, rather than focus on them, I will instead pray "come, Holy Spirit" and fix my eyes upon Him.  Or at least I'll try.

I heard a quote on the radio today that was attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.  "It is a sin to be scandalized by one's own sins."  Or something like that.  I couldn't find the reference anywhere but regardless, it still makes a point.  We should never let our own weakness and struggles (or those of others) shock us.  It is actually a gift when we can see our own sinfulness and recognize how desperately in need we are of a Savior.  God works in that.  He longs to pour down His gifts upon us and sometimes those struggles and terrible days are just the opportunity He needs to make that happen if only we let Him.

May the gifts of the Holy Spirit dwell deeply within us and be renewed each day.  Happy Pentecost! (And happy birthday to my husband 1500 miles away.  And I hope those super exciting brownies survived the trip!)


  1. You absolutely hit one out of the park with this, Mary. Thank you for the encouragement, the insight, the information on the 7 Gifts Novena.

    I only wish we could chat over coffee about so many of the things you address. YOU have a gift, to be able top so beautifully share from the heart. among other beautiful qualities. Happy and blessed bday to your hubby. Great month for a bday.


  2. Mary,
    My pastor gave a homily about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he described Fear of the Lord in a way I've never heard. He said it's not fear like you're afraid of being punished for your sins, it's fear as in you're afraid of getting lost and separated. Like a child doesn't want to get lost at a store and has that fear of needing to stay close. I loved the explanation, it made Fear of God seem so much more loving and less threatening!

  3. "I want to be one of those people that by just being in their presence, you KNOW they know Christ and it permeates everything about them."

    This is my prayer, too.... that others would SEE Christ in me - not because of who I am or because of what I do - but because of the Spirit that dwells in me.

    Thank you for this post, Mary.

  4. my husband and I prayed this Novena this year as well! As we often have different schedules, we don't typically get to pray together so it was great we made the effort


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