How to Open the Spirit's 7 Gifts

User's Guide to Sunday, July 3.

July 3, 2011, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.


Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2, 8-14; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

Our Take

Today’s readings start a series of four Sundays that focus on the Kingdom of God. Today we meet a humble king who will restore peace on earth, a king who is “meek and humble of heart.”

St. Paul in the second reading explains that this is really true: The benefits described in Christ’s Kingdom can already apply to you, “if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

The Holy Spirit dwells in the baptized though the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here is a brief rundown of them (based on Blessed Columba Marmion’s explanations) and some tips for developing them:

1. Wisdom: The gift of relishing what is right.

To have the gift of wisdom isn’t simply to appreciate the truth; it is to have a “taste” and hunger for the things of God, a kind of heavenly instinct that makes us sense and appreciate holiness. This is what Christ describes in today’s Gospel: With this gift, we can find in him a place of rest and ease.

The Rosary is a great way to develop this kind of wisdom. In praying the Rosary, we ponder the things of God and develop a taste for them.

2. Understanding: Those flashes of holy insight we receive.

There are moments, often when reading Scripture, that we suddenly “get” something we couldn’t see before. The meaning of a passage, or even a word we hadn’t noticed before, jumps off the page. When this happens, we can relate to what the disciples said: “Our hearts were burning within us.”

We can encourage this gift by meditation. Start every morning with 10 minutes (at least) of reviewing the day’s Gospel for Mass. If it helps (and it probably will) read the meditation provided by the Magnificat.

3. Counsel: Knowing what God really wants.

This gift of the Holy Spirit helps us parse the inspirations we feel in our hearts. Some of these are presumption: We feel more capable than we really are. Others sell ourselves short: We tell ourselves that we cannot do something that we can. The Holy Spirit helps us sort out the good from the bad.

Regular examination of conscience and confession are a good way to encourage this gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember to consider not just what you did wrong, but where you did well, to have full self-knowledge.

4. Fortitude: Knowing God is with you.

The Holy Spirit does not give us fortitude in or for ourselves; he gives us the courage to do his will. He tells us what God told Moses facing Pharaoh: “I will be with you.” Trust in God’s strength is ultimately the only sure courage we can have.

A good way to encourage fortitude is to deny ourselves in some way. Eat less than what fills or skip that extra entertainment or treat. This helps us stop building our foundation on our own strength (which we will quickly find to be weak), but on God’s.

5. Knowledge: Seeing what God sees.

You can stand in front of a giant waterfall and see only the power of nature — or you can see it in context and appreciate the beauty and order of the Creator. You can also look at yourself and see either Ms. Wonderful or Mr. Worthless —or you can see yourself in context: a weak creature given great potential by God. The Holy Spirit’s knowledge helps you see what God sees in both cases.

Spiritual reading is a great way to encourage this gift of the Holy Spirit. Reading the books of saints or about saints helps train our knowledge to be attuned to God’s.

6. Piety: God’s spiritual consolations.

Discouragement is a major threat against leading a holy life. It is easy to see what is asked of us, see our own unworthiness, and give up. The Holy Spirit — “the Consoler” — helps reverse that by giving us the gift of piety — the comforting spiritual reassurance of God.

Do a good deed for someone to develop this gift properly: First, because doing this is a great way to invite God the Consoler to your side; and second, because it avoids the trap of simply seeking happy holy feelings.

7. Fear of the Lord: Awed respect for God.

If discouragement is a major spiritual threat, so is complacency. When you think you are coasting in a happy place in the spiritual life, you are in the most danger: Spiritual pride cometh before a spiritual fall. The fear of the Lord helps keep us free from self-righteousness.

Daily Mass and/or Eucharistic adoration in front of the tabernacle or monstrance is a great way to grow in our sense of reverence and respect for God.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.