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7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

“If you wish to have the love of the Son, and of the origination Principle, and of the Gift that is the Holy Spirit, dispose yourself for grace.”
St. Bonaventure (Collations on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit)


To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son.

The 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. 


The 7 Gifts complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. These 7 gifts can be differentiated in the following way:


1. Wisdom

It is written (Sirach 6:23): “The wisdom of doctrine is according to her name,” for wisdom (sapientia) may be described as sweet-tasting science (sapida scientia).

St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q.45, a.4)

The gift of wisdom allows someone to order all things in accordance with God’s Will. This gift has an element of contemplation—or a deep thought process of the divine.

The Wisdom of the Holy Spirit takes us beyond human reason, so that we not only grasp higher truths, but we can use them to guide our actions in relation to the Divine Will of God. 

The Bible talks about Wisdom like a house God wants us to dwell in: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3-5 The Blessed Mother has the title Sedes Sapientiae, Seat of Wisdom, because on her lap sat the Wisdom Incarnate, her Son, Jesus Christ. 



2. Understanding

Understanding denotes a certain excellence of a knowledge that penetrates into the heart of things.

-St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q.8, a.1)

The Holy Spirit’s gift of Understanding lifts us beyond our human powers of understanding and grants our intellects the light to see deeper into the supernatural truths of the faith. Our human intellect cannot possibly grasp all of God’s mysteries, but through Understanding, we can be led to the truth despite our lack of comprehension.

This gift strengthens our insight through prayer, Scripture, and the 7 Sacraments. If we want to employ our gift of Understanding, we should focus less on the pop culture of material wealth, death, and sin, and instead focus on the Church’s culture of life, love, and truth.


3. Counsel

The gift of counsel is about what has to be done for the sake of the end.

-St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q.45, a.2)

It is popular in today’s world to question all authority and do things our own way. However, not every opinion or way of doing things is in line with Catholic teaching. The Holy Spirit’s gift of Counsel guides us to choose God’s Will in all things. 

It bestows upon us prudence, one of the virtues, allowing us to act promptly and rightly in the face of difficult situations. A person with Right Judgment/Counsel will avoid sin and lead a life for Christ. This gift inspires us to speak up and encourage others to do the right and moral thing. 

In the 1990’s Cardinal Martini stated: “When one puts off decisions because one does know what to do and prefers not to think about it, when one goes ahead under the illusion that someone will tell you what to do, all this signifies that the gift of counsel is lacking.”

4. Fortitude

God is wonderful in his saints; the God of Israel himself will give power and fortitude to his people.
-Psalm 67:36 (Douay-Rheims)

Often, this gift of the Holy Spirit is thought of as intestinal fortitude, applied to those who have what we call “guts.” This gift can help us overcome obstacles that keep us from the good while we endure hardships. 

This gift sustains our decision to follow the will of God in any situation and allows us to defend our faith, even when threatened with bodily or verbal  injury.

Fortitude strengthens our wills to be steadfastly just and righteous so that we are able defend the Faith and stand up and speak out for what we know is right. 

Mary exhibited fortitude when she witnessed the Passion and Death of her Son, Jesus Christ. She was able to stay close to her Son throughout his suffering because of her faith in God’s Will.

5. Piety

Piety then…is a power given us of submitting ourselves to the Holy Ghost breathing into our souls a spirit of childlike reverence for Our Heavenly Father and of devotion to the furthering of his interests.
-Bernard Kelly, CSSp (The Seven Gifts)

Often, Piety is thought of as self-righteousness or arrogance, a kind of “holier than thou” attitude. However, this gift actually refers to our relationships with God and others. It brings us into a proper relationship with fellow men as our brothers and sisters in Christ and God as our loving Father. 

This gift exemplifies reverence towards God which is our obedience and willingness to serve Him. Not obedience through a sense of duty or obligation, but one out of love and devotion. This gift facilitates a deeper respect and honor for God and His Church.


6. Knowledge

Knowledge is a gift of the Holy Ghost which takes the form of right judgment in things that are to be believed, never confusing them with what ought to be believed.
-Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP (The Theological Virtues)

St. John Paul II explained in his encyclical on faith and reason (Fides et Ratio) that most Christians practice a faith without using reason and knowledge to find truth. 

This virtuous gift guides us towards deeper realms of knowledge to discern God’s truths about ourselves and all of His Creation. Jesus, possessing both human and divine natures, possessed both heavenly knowledge as God and earthly knowledge as man. Knowledge brings to light the temptations we face everyday and discern whether or not to give in or live a life worthy of God’s approval.


7. Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord is a very beautiful tree planted in the heart of the holy person and watered continuously by God.
St. Bonaventure (Collations on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

Modern secularists argue that “Fear of the Lord” puts Christians in a relationship of fear-based faith that demeans human dignity. This gift actually brings us into awareness of our human limitation and vulnerability to cultivate a loving relationship with God who sustains us and offers us the greatest gifts on earth and in Heaven.

4 Forms of Fear According to St. Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Worldly fear: fear of loss of material goods
  2. Servile fear: fear of punishment
  3. Initial fear: fear of being punished by God
  4. Filial fear: fear of committing sin and offending God.

As we grow in love for God, the Holy Spirit purifies our fear of loss or punishment to a fear of losing our relationship with God because of sin. Everything depends on the Holy Spirit’s operation in us. 


The more fully we allow ourselves to be drawn and guided by the Holy Spirit, allowing His gifts to move in us- the closer we shall come to Jesus and His mysteries and graces.

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