As a regular reader of our magazine, you may have detected a theme that is running this year. We, of course, are centering ourselves on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Attention to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are particularly important as we are taught the catechism in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation—most of our high school students are uniquely aware of this. It is important, however, for us to continue to grow in an appreciation of our Faith by “going deeper” into the mysteries of the life of grace that belong to us by our Baptismal birthright. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are present most keenly in the Person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are also found in all the Baptized who are in the state of grace—God’s Divine Life that dwells within each of us. We first receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, God’s Divine Life—Grace—in the Sacrament of Baptism; these gifts are then strengthened in Confirmation, the completion of our Baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1831) teaches that the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.”
I find this statement to be of some particular note, especially for the teens and young adults who are currently of Confirmation age. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit evoke the sense of virtuous life to which each and every Catholic Christian is called. I often speak about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit activating in a particular way the great virtue of the heart, or courage. Every one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is connected to a particular virtue. Wisdom, as we have considered previously, is connected to the theological virtue of Faith. Understanding allows us to ponder deeply and grasp the things of Faith, or the theological virtue of hope. In this issue, we are considering the Gift of Counsel that is connected essentially to the cardinal virtue of prudence.
When I was young, my mother, being the mistress of signs and slogans, had little notes all over the house encouraging us to “do good and avoid evil” in one way or another. One unique sign that I’ll never forget reminds me of the virtue of prudence. It was stuck on the top of our bathroom mirror. It was yellow and had orange letters that read: “Before you louse things up—THIMK!” Of course, the misspelled “THINK” was an indication of what would happen if one does not consider carefully what one is doing.
The Gift of Counsel invites us to ponder—not merely to think in an intellectual way, but rather in a spiritual way. The sign could read: “Before you louse things up—PRAY!” One should think about how grace, how Jesus Himself, inspires us to go deeper into the mystery of His love for us and of our action in the world. Think about how we live our daily lives as a Christian—one who bears His name and His identity in a very secular world. We know it’s not always easy, therefore the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the “power tools” of our spiritual lives. The Holy Spirit encourages us, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 8, with “sighs too deep for words.” We need to take advantage of those promptings, the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit, each and every day.
It often amazes me to consider the many Catholics who simply expect that they do not have to put forth any effort to find God’s action in the world. They are discouraged by the fact that they do not see God’s action and they absolve themselves of the necessity to believe—to pray—to put forth some effort to see God’s ever-present energy and goodness! The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Counsel encourages us to seek the presence of God and act upon it once we find it. Silence before God, Psalm 126, reminds us to “be still and know that I am God.” This message is such a valuable gift for a believer. Take time to be quiet before God who is everywhere and all around us. Be thoughtful, yes, but be filled with the supernatural gift of God’s grace. It is your Baptismal birthright—it is the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Counsel.
Most Reverend William Patrick
Callahan is the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION OR SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION
- How do I use the Gift of Counsel when making decisions?
- Am I committed to spreading the Good News this Easter season?
- Where do I seek the presence of God?