The Gifts of the Holy Ghost
by Father Prosper Gueranger 1870

It is our intention to explain, during this Week, the workings of the Holy Ghost, both in the Church, and in the faithful Soul. These seven Days are given to us, that we may know and appreciate the great Gift sent us by the Father and the Son. Moreover, the Spirit Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, has seven different ways whereby He manifests His presence in our souls. It behoves us, therefore, to devote this happy Week to the study and love of the Sevenfold Gift, whereby are to be wrought our salvation and sanctification.

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost are seven energies, which He graciously puts into the soul, when He enters there by sanctifying grace. Actual graces put these divinely infused powers into motion, either all at once or separately; and hereby, acts supernatural and meritorious of life everlasting, are produced by the free consent of our will.

The Prophet Isaias, guided by divine inspiration, has told us of these Seven Gifts. He is foretelling the workings of the Holy Ghost upon the Soul of the Son of God made Man, Whom he calls the Flower of a virginal Root of Jesse. He says: And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the Spirit of Wisdom, and of Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and of Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge, and of Godliness, and he shall be filled with the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Is. xi. 2, 3). These mysterious words do not only express the qualities of the Holy Ghost; they also describe the effects He produces in the soul of man; and it is in this sense that they have been interpreted by the Holy Fathers and Theologians.

The sacred Humanity of the Incarnate Son of God is the supernatural type of our own; and what the Holy Ghost operated in the former, for its sanctification, that same, in proportion, He wills to do in the latter. He infused into the Son of Mary the seven energies mentioned by the Prophet; the same seven Gifts are prepared for regenerated man. But let us notice the order in which they come. Isaias begins with the Spirit of Wisdom, and ends with the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord. Wisdom, as we shall see further on, is the noblest prerogative of which man is capable; whereas the Fear of the Lord is but the beginning of Wisdom, as the Royal Psalmist assures us (Ps. cx. 10). The Soul of Jesus was created for a personal union with the divine Word, and was therefore treated with exceptional honor; the first and foremost Gift infused into it was that of Wisdom, and the Gift of the Fear of the Lord followed, necessarily indeed, (because a creature is not perfect unless it have this quality,) but still as a sequel and completion. With us, on the contrary, frail and inconstant as we are, the Fear of God is the foundation of our whole spiritual building, and by it we raise ourselves gradually to that Wisdom which brings union with God. It is by means of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost that man attains to perfection; but they are bestowed upon him in the order inverse of that wherein Isaias names them, when speaking of the Son of God. We receive them at the time of our Baptism; and, when we have the misfortune to lose them, (as we do when we lose sanctifying grace, that is, when we commit a mortal sin,) they are restored to us by the Sacrament of Penance.

Let us respectfully consider how the whole work of our salvation and sanctification is marked with the mysterious number of Seven. There are seven principal Virtues which render us dear to our Maker; it is by seven Gifts, that the Holy Ghost leads us to our last end; the seven Sacraments apply to us the merits of the Incarnation and Redemption; it is after seven Weeks from the Pasch, that the Holy Spirit is sent upon the earth, there to establish and maintain the kingdom of God. Can we wonder after this, that Satan should have sacrilegiously mimicked the work of God, striving to destroy, by the seven deadly sins, the creatures whom God would save?


The Gift of Fear

Pride is the obstacle to man's virtue and wellbeing. It is pride that leads us to resist God, to make self our last end, in a word, to work our own ruin. Humility alone can save us from this terrible danger. Who will give us humility? The Holy Ghost; and this, by infusing into us the Gift of the Fear of God.

This holy sentiment is based on the following truths, which are taught us by faith: the sovereign majesty of God, in comparison with Whom we are mere nothingness; the infinite sanctity of that God, in Whose presence we are but unworthiness and sin; the severe and just judgment we are to go through after death; the danger of falling into sin, which may be our misfortune at any time, if we do not correspond to grace, for although grace be never wanting, yet we have it in our power to resist it.

Man, as the Apostle tells us, must work out his salvation with fear and trembling (II. Philipp. ii. 12); but this Fear, which is a gift of the Holy Ghost, is not the base sentiment which goes no further than the dread of eternal punishments. It keeps alive within us an abiding compunction of heart, even though we hope that our sins have long ago been forgiven. It prevents our forgetting that we are sinners, that we are wholly dependent upon God's mercy, and that we are not as yet safe, except in hope (Rom. viii. 24).

This Fear of God, therefore, is not a servile fear; on the contrary, it is the source of the noblest sentiments. Inasmuch as it is a filial dread of offending God by sin, it may go hand-in-hand with love. Arising as it does from a reverence for God's infinite majesty and holiness, it puts the creature in his right place, and, as St. Paul says, it contributes to the perfecting of sanctification (II. Cor. vii. 1). Hence this great Apostle, who had been rapt up to the third heaven, assures us that he was severe in his treatment of himself, lest he should become a cast-away (I. Cor. ix. 27).

The spirit of independence and of false liberty which is now-a-days so rife amongst us, is a great enemy to the Fear of God; and one of the miseries of our age is, that there is little Fear of God. Familiarity with God but too frequently usurps the place of that essential basis of the Christian life. The result is, that there is no progress in virtue, such people are a prey to illusion, and the Sacraments, which previously worked so powerfully in their souls, are now well-nigh unproductive. The reason is, that the Gift of Fear has been superseded by a conceited self-complacency. Humility has no further sway; a secret and habitual pride has paralyzed the soul; and seeing that these people scout the very idea of their ever trembling before the great God of heaven, we may well ask them, if they know Who God is?

Therefore we beseech thee, O Holy Spirit! keep up within us the Fear of God, which thou didst infuse into our hearts at our Baptism. This saving Fear will ensure our perseverance in virtue, for it will oppose the growth of pride. Let it pierce our soul through and through, and ever abide with us as our safeguard. Let it bring down our haughtiness, and rouse us from tepidity, by its ceaselessly reminding us of the greatness and holiness of Him Who is our Creator and our Judge.

This holy Fear does not stifle the sentiment of Love; on the contrary, it removes what would be a hindrance to its growth. The heavenly Powers see and ardently love their God, their infinite and eternal good; and yet, they tremble before his dread Majesty: Tremunt Potestates. And shall we, covered as we are with the wounds of our sins, disfigured by countless imperfections, exposed on every side to snares, obliged to fight with so many enemies, shall we flatter ourselves that we can do without this strong and filial Fear? and that we need nothing to stimulate us, when we are in those frequent trials--a want of fervour in our will, or of light in our mind? O Holy Spirit! watch over us! Preserve within us Thy precious Gift! Teach us how to combine peace and joy of heart with the Fear of our Lord and God, according to those words of the Psalmist: Serve ye the Lord with fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling (Ps. ii. II)!


The Gift of Godliness

The gift of the Fear of God is intended as a cure for our pride; the gift of Godliness is infused into our souls by the Holy Ghost, in order that we may resist self-love, which is one of the passions of our fallen nature, and the second hindrance to our union with God. The heart of a Christian is not made to be either cold or indifferent; it must be affectionate and devoted; otherwise, it never can attain the perfection for which God, Who is Love, has graciously created it.

The Holy Ghost, therefore, puts the Gift of Godliness into the soul, by inspiring it with a filial affection for her Creator. You have received, says the Apostle, the Spirit of adoption of Sons, whereby we cry to our God, Abba! Father (rom. viii. 15)! This disposition mates the soul alive to whatsoever regards God's honour. It enables man to nourish within him a sorrow for his sins, in consideration of the divine mercy which has borne with and forgiven him, and of the Sufferings and Death of his Redeemer. It makes him thirst for God's glory to be ever spreading; he would, if he could, bring all his fellow-creatures to adore this God; he feels most keenly every insult that is offered to so dear a King. His greatest joy is to see others growing in their love and devotedness in the service of the sovereign Good. He is filled with filial submission to his Heavenly Father, Whose every will he is most ready to do, cheerfully resigned to whatsoever He may appoint.

His Faith is unhesitating and fervent. Affectionately docile to the Church, he is always in the disposition of mind to abandon his most cherished ideas the moment he discovers them to be, in any way, out of harmony with her teaching or practice, for he has an instinctive horror of novelties and insubordination.

This devotedness to God, which results from the gift of Godliness, and unites the soul to her Creator by filial love, makes her love all God's creatures, inasmuch as they are the work of His hands and belong to Him.

The Blessed in heaven hold the first place in the fraternal affection of such a Christian. He has a most tender love for the holy Mother of God, and is zealous for her honour; he venerates the Saints; he is a warm admirer of the courage of the Martyrs, and of the heroic actions of the servants of God; he delights in reading of their miracles, and has a devotion to their sacred Relics.

But his love is not limited to the citizens of heaven; it is extended also to his fellow-creatures here on earth, for the gift of Godliness makes him find Jesus in them. He is kind to everyone, without exception. He forgives injuries, bears with the imperfections of others, and, where an excuse is possible for his neighbor, he makes it. He has compassion on the poor, and is attentive to the sick. His whole conduct is the index of a sterling warm-heartedness, that weeps with them that weep, and rejoices with them that rejoice.

All this is found in those, who use thy gift of Godliness, O Holy Spirit! By infusing it into our souls, Thou enablest us to withstand the workings of our self-love, which would corrupt the heart; Thou preservest us from that odious indifference to everyone around us, which dries up all feeling; thou drivest from us the sentiments of jealousy and hatred. Yes, Godliness inspired us with a filial love for our Creator, that softened the heart; and every creature of God became dear to us. O Blessed Paraclete! grant that this Gift may produce its rich fruits in us! Never permit us to stifle it by the love of self. Our Jesus has told us, that His heavenly Father maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad (St. Matth. v. 45): He would have us take this divine generosity as our model: do thou, therefore, foster within us that germ of devotedness, kindness and sympathy, which we received from Thee on the day of our Baptism, when thou first tookest possession of our souls!


The Gift of Knowledge

Detached from evil by the fear of the Lord, and ennobled with holy love by the gift of Godliness, the soul feels the want of knowing how she is to avoid what she is to fear, and how to find what she must love. The Holy Ghost comes to her assistance, and brings her what she needs, by infusing into her the Gift of Knowledge. By means of this precious gift, truth is made evident to her; she knows what God asks of her and what he condemns, she knows what to seek and what to shun. Without this holy Knowledge, we are in danger of going astray, because of the frequent darkness which, more or less, clouds our understanding. This darkness arises, in the first place, from our own nature, that bears upon itself the but too visible proofs of the Fall. It is added to by the false maxims and judgments of the World, which so often warp even those whose upright minds seemed to make them safe. And lastly, the action of Satan, who is the Prince of darkness, has this for one of its chief aims, to obscure our mind, or to mislead it by false lights.

The Light of our soul is Faith, which was infused into us at our Baptism. By the Gift of Knowledge, the Holy Ghost empowers our Faith to elicit rays of light, strong enough to dispel all darkness. Doubts are then cleared up, error is exposed and put to flight, truth beams upon us in all its beauty. Everything is viewed in its true light, the light of Faith. We see how false are the principles which sway the world, which ruin so many souls, and of which we ourselves were once, perhaps, victims.

The gift of Knowledge reveals to us the end which God had in creation, and out of which creatures can never find either happiness or rest. It teaches us what use we are to make of creatures, for they were not given us to be a hindrance, but a help whereby to reach our God. The secret of life thus possessed, we walk on in safety, we halt not, and we are resolved to shun every path which would not lead us to our end.

The Apostle had this Gift in view, when speaking to the converts of Ephesus, he said: Ye were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord: walk then as Children of the Light (Eph. v. 8). Hence comes that unhesitatingness, that confidence, of the Christian Life. There may be a want of experience now and then; so much so, indeed, that the little world around talks feelingly about the indiscretions and scandals which are almost sure to arise; but they forget that there is the Gift of Knowledge, of which the Sacred Scripture thus speaks: She conducted the just through the right ways, and gave him the Knowledge of holy things, or, as some render it, the Science of the Saints. We have daily proofs of this truth: a Christian, by means of supernatural light, is found to escape every danger; he has no experience of his own, but he has the experience of God.

We give Thee thanks, O Holy Paraclete! for this Thy gift of light, which Thou so lovingly maintainest within us! Oh! never permit us to seek any other. It alone is sufficient; without it, there is nought but darkness. Preserve us from those sad inconsistencies, of which so many are guilty, who follow Thy guidance today, and the maxims of the world tomorrow; wretched double dealing, which displeases Thee, and does not please the world! Make us love that Knowledge, which thou gavest us in order to our salvation. The enemy of our souls is jealous of our having such a Gift, and is ever studying to make us exchange it for his lying principles. O Divine Spirit! suffer not his treachery to triumph. Be thou ever within us, aiding us to distinguish truth from falsity, and right from wrong. May our Eye be single and simple, as our Jesus bids it be; that so our Body, that is, the Body of our actions, desires and thoughts, may be lightsome; and preserve us from that evil Eye, which makes the whole Body to be Darkness (St. Matth. vi. 22, 23, 24).


The Gift of Fortitude

The gift of Knowledge has taught us what we must do and what we must avoid, in order that we may be such as Jesus, our divine Master, wishes us to be. We now need another gift of the Holy Ghost, from which to draw the energy necessary for our persevering in the way he has pointed out to us. Difficulties we are sure to have; and our need of support is proved enough by the miserable failures we are daily witnessing. This support the Holy Ghost grants us by the gift of Fortitude, which, if we but faithfully use it, will enable us to master every difficulty, yea, will make it easy to us to overcome the obstacles which would impede our onward march.

When difficulties and trials of life come upon him, man is tempted, sometimes to cowardice and discouragement, sometimes to an impetuosity, which arises either from his natural temperament or from pride. These are poor aids to the soul in her spiritual combat. The Holy Ghost, therefore, brings her a new element of strength; it is supernatural Fortitude, which is so peculiarly His gift, that when our Saviour instituted the seven Sacraments, He would have one of them be for the special object of giving us the Holy Ghost as a principle of energy. It is evident, that having to fight, during our whole lives, against the devil, the world, and ourselves, we need some better power of resistance than either pusillanimity or daring. We need some gift, which will control both our fear, and the confidence we are at times inclined to have in ourselves. Thus gifted by the Holy Ghost, man is sure of victory; for grace will supply the deficiencies, and correct the impetuosities, of nature.

There are two necessities, which are ever making themselves felt in the Christian life; the power of resistance, and the power of endurance. What could we do against the temptations of Satan, if the Fortitude of the Holy Spirit did not clad us with heavenly armour and nerve us to the battle? And is not the World, too, a terrible enemy? Have we not reason to dread it, when we see how it is every day making victims by the tyranny of its claims and its maxims? What, then, must be the assistance of the Holy Ghost, which is to make us invulnerable to the deadly shafts that are dealing destruction around us?

The passions of the human heart are another obstacle to our salvation and sanctification; they are the more to be feared, because they are within us. It is requisite that the Holy Ghost change our heart, and lead it to deny itself as often as the light of grace points out to us a way other than that which self-love would have us follow. What supernatural Fortitude we need in order to hate our life (St. John, xii. 25), as often, as our Lord bids us make a sacrifice, or when we have to choose which of the two Masters we will serve (St. Matth. vi. 24). The Holy Spirit is daily working this marvel by means of the Gift of Fortitude: so that, we have but to correspond to the Gift, and not stifle it either by cowardice or indiscretion, and we are strong enough to resist even our domestic enemies. This blessed Gift of Fortitude teaches us to govern our passions and treat them as blind guides; it also teaches us never to follow their instincts, save when they are in harmony with the law of God.

There are times, when the Holy Spirit requires from a Christian something beyond interior resistance to the enemies of his soul: he must make an outward protestation against error and evil, as often, as position or duty demands it. On such occasions, one must bear to become unpopular, and console one's self with the words of the Apostle: If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal. i. 10). But the Holy Ghost will be on his side; and finding him resolute in using His Gift of Fortitude, not only will He give him a final triumph, but He generally blesses that soul with a sweet and courageous peace, which is the result and recompense of a duty fulfilled.

Thus does the Holy Ghost apply the gift of Fortitude, when there is question of a Christian's making resistance. But, as we have already said, it imparts also the energy necessary for bearing up against the trials, which all must go through who would save their souls. There are certain fears, which damp our courage, and expose us to defeat. The gift of Fortitude dispels them, and braces us with such a peaceful confidence, that we ourselves are surprised at the change. Look at the Martyrs; not merely at such an one as St. Mauritius, the leader of the Theban Legion, who was accustomed to face danger on the battle-field, but at Felicitas, a mother of seven children, at Perpetua, a high-born lady with everything this world could give her, at Agnes, a girl of thirteen, and at thousands of others like them; and say, if the gift of Fortitude is not a prompter to heroism? Where is the fear of death, that death, the very thought of which is sometimes more than we can bear? And what are we to say of all those lives spent in self-abnegation and privation, with a view to make Jesus their only treasure and be the more closely united with him? What are we to say of those hundreds and thousands of our fellow-creatures, who shun the sight of a distracted and vain world, and make sacrifice their rule? whose peacefulness is proof against every trial, and whose acceptance of the cross is as untiring as the cross itself is in its visit? What trophies are these of the Spirit of Fortitude! and how magnificent is the devotedness he creates for every possible duty! Oh! truly, man, of himself, is of little worth; but, how grand when under the influence of the Holy Ghost!

It is the same Divine Spirit who also gives the Christian courage to withstand the vile temptation of human respect, by raising him above those worldly considerations which would make him disloyal to duty. It is He that leads man to prefer, to every honour this world could bestow, the happiness of never violating the law of his God. It is the Spirit of Fortitude that makes him look upon the reverses of fortune as so many merciful designs of Providence; that consoles him, when death bereaves him of those who are dear to him; that cheers him under bodily sufferings, which would be so hard to bear but from his taking them as visits from his heavenly Father. In a word, it is He, as we learn from the Lives of the Saints, that turns the very repugnances of nature into matter for heroic acts, wherein man seems to go beyond the limits of his frail mortality and emulate the impassible and glorified spirits of heaven.

O divine Spirit of Fortitude! take full possession of our souls, and keep us from the effeminacies of the age we live in. Never was there such lack of energy as now, never was the worldly spirit more rife, never was sensuality more unbridled, never were pride and independence more the fashion of the world. So forgotten and unheeded are the maxims of the Gospel, that when we witness the Fortitude of self-restraint and abnegation, we are as surprised as though we beheld a prodigy. O Holy Paraclete! preserve us from this anti-christian spirit, which is so easily imbibed! Suffer us to present to thee, in the form of prayer, the advice given by St. Paul to the Christians of Ephesus: Give us, we beseech thee, " the armour of God, that we may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Gird our reins with truth; arm us with the breast-plate of justice; let our feet be shod with the love and practice of the Gospel of peace; give us the shield of Faith, wherewith we may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one; cover us with the helmet of the hope of salvation; put into our hand the spiritual sword, which is the Word of God, (Eph. vi. 11-17)" and by which we, as did our Jesus in the Desert, may defeat all our enemies! O Spirit of Fortitude! hear, we beseech thee, and grant our prayer!


The Gift of Counsel

We have seen how necessary for the sanctification of a Christian is the gift of Fortitude; but it is not sufficient; there is need of another gift, which completes it. This other gift is Counsel. Fortitude needs direction. The gift of Knowledge is not the guide of Fortitude, and for this reason, that Knowledge teaches the soul her last end, and gives her general rules for her conduct; but it does not bring her light sufficient for the special application of God's law to particular cases, and for the practical doing our duty. In those varied circumstances in which we are to be placed, and in the decisions we must then form, we shall have to hearken to the voice of the Holy Ghost, and this voice speaks to us through the gift of Counsel. It will tell us, if we are attentive to its speaking, what we must do and what we must not do, what we must say and what we must not say, what we may keep and what we must give up. The Holy Ghost acts upon our understanding by the gift of Counsel, as He acts upon our will by the gift of Fortitude.

This precious gift bears upon our whole life; for we are continually obliged to be deciding on one of two sides or questions. How grateful, then, should we not be to the Holy Ghost, Who is ever ready to be our Counsellor, if we will but permit Him! And if we follow His direction, what snares He will teach us to avoid! how many illusions He will dispel! how grand the truths He will show us! But, in order that His inspirations may not be lost upon us, we must be on our guard against such miseries of our nature as the following: natural impulse, which is but too often the sole motive of our acts; rashness, which makes us follow whatever feeling happens to be uppermost in our mind; precipitation, which urges us to judge or act, before we have seen both sides of the case; and lastly, indifference, which makes us decide at haphazard, out of a repugnance we have to take the trouble of examining what is the best course to pursue.

By the gift of Counsel, the Holy Ghost saves us from all these evils. He corrects the impetuosity, or, it may be, the apathy of our temperament. He keeps the soul alive to what is true, and good, and conducive to her real interests. He introduces into the soul that virtue which completes and seasons every other, we mean discretion, whereby the other virtues are harmonized and kept from extremes. Under the direction of the gift of Counsel, the Christian has nothing to fear; the Holy Ghost takes the whole responsibility. What matters it, therefore, if the world find fault, or criticize, or express surprise, or be scandalized? The world thinks itself wise; but it has not the gift of Counsel. Hence, it often happens, that what is undertaken by its advice, results in the very opposite to what was intended. Was it not of the world that God spoke, when he said: My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways (Is. lv. 8)?

Let us, then, with all the ardour of our hearts, desire this divine gift, which will preserve us from the danger of being our own guides; but let us remember, it will only dwell in us on the condition of our allowing it to be master. If the Holy Ghost see that we are not led by worldly principles, and that we acknowledge our own weakness, He will be our Counsel; if He find that we are wise in our own eyes, He will withdraw his light, and leave us to ourselves.

O Holy Spirit! we would not that thou shouldst ever abandon us. Sad experience has taught us how fraught with danger is all human prudence. Most cheerfully do we promise Thee to mistrust our own ideas, which are so apt to blind and mislead us. Keep up within us the magnificent gift Thou gavest us at Baptism: be Thou our Counsel, yea, unreservedly and forever! Show me, O Lord, thy ways, and teach me Thy paths. Direct me in Thy truth, and teach me; for Thou art the God Who canst save me; therefore have I waited on Thee, all the day long (Ps. xxiv. 4. 5). We know that we are to be judged for all our works and intentions; but we know, too, that we have nothing to fear so long as we are faithful to Thy guidance. Therefore will we attentively hear what the Lord God will speak in us (Ibid. lxxxiv. 9); we will listen to Thee, O Holy Spirit of Counsel, whether Thou speakest to us directly Thyself, or whether Thou sendest us to those whom Thou shalt appoint as our guides. Blessed, then, be Jesus, Who has sent us such a Counsellor! and blessed be Thou, O Holy Spirit! Who deignest to give us Thine aid, in spite of all our past resistance!


The Gift of Understanding

This sixth Gift of the Holy Ghost raises the soul to a still higher state. The first five Gifts all tend to action. The Fear of God keeps man in his right place, for it humbles him; Godliness opens his heart to holy affections; Knowledge enables him to discern the path of salvation from that of perdition; Fortitude arms him for the battle; Counsel directs him in his thoughts and works: thus gifted, he can act, and pursue his journey with the sure hope of coming at length to his heavenly home. But the Holy Ghost has other favours in store for him. He would give him a foretaste, here below, of the happiness that awaits him in the next life: it will give him confidence, it will encourage him, it will reward his efforts. Contemplation, yes, this is the blissful region thrown open to him, and the Holy Ghost leads him thither by the gift of Understanding.

There will be a feeling of surprise and hesitation arising in the minds of many at hearing this word, Contemplation. They have been taught to look on Contemplation as an element of the spiritual life which is rarely to be hoped for, and almost impossible for persons who are in the ordinary walks of life. We must begin, then, by telling them, that such an idea is a great and dangerous error, and one that checks the progress of the soul. No: Contemplation is a state, to which, more or less, the soul of every Christian is called. It does not consist in those extraordinary effects which the Holy Ghost occasionally produces in some privileged souls, and by which He would convince the world of the reality of the supernatural life. It is simply a relation of close intimacy existing between God and a soul that is faithful to him in Action. For such a soul, unless she herself put an obstacle, God reserves two favours: the first is the gift of Understanding, which consists in a supernatural light granted to the mind of man.

This light does not remove the sacred obscurity of Faith; but it enlightens the eye of the soul, strengthens her perception, and widens her view of divine things. It dispels clouds, which were occasioned by the previous weakness and ignorance of the soul. The exquisite beauty of the mysteries is now revealed to her, and the truths which hitherto seemed unconnected, now delight her by the sweetness of their harmony. It is not the face-to-face vision which heaven gives, but it is something incomparably brighter than the feeble glimmer of former days, when all was mist and doubt. The eye of her spirit discovers analogies and reasons, which do something more than please, they bring conviction. The heart opens under the influence of these bright beams, for they feed faith, cherish hope, and give ardour to love. Everything seems new to her. Looking at the past, and comparing it with the present, she wonders within herself, how it is, that Truth, which is ever the same, has a charm and power over her now which it once had not?

The reading or hearing of the Gospel produces an impression far deeper than formerly: she finds a relish in the words of Jesus, which, in times past, she never experienced. She can understand so much better the object of the institution of the Sacraments. The holy Liturgy, with its magnificent ceremonies and sublime formulas, is to her an anticipation of heaven. She loves to read the Lives of the Saints; she can do so, and never feel a temptation to carp at their sentiments or conduct: she prefers their Writings to all others, and she finds in these communications with the friends of God a special increase of her spiritual good. No matter what may be the duties of her station in life, she has, in this glorious Gift, a light which guides her in each of them. The virtues required from her, however varied they may be, are so regulated, that one is never done to the detriment of another; she knows the harmony that exists between them all, and she never breaks it. She is as far from scrupulosity as from tepidity, and when she commits a fault, she loses no time in repairing it. Sometimes, the Holy Ghost favours her with an interior speaking, which gives her additional light for some special emergency.

The world and its maxims are mere vanities in her estimation; and when necessity obliges her to conform to what is not sinful in either, she does so without setting her heart upon it. Mere natural grandeur or beauty seems unworthy of notice to her whose eye has been opened, by the Holy Spirit, to the divine and eternal. To her, this outward world, which the carnal-minded man loves to his own destruction, has but one fair side: it is, that the visible creation, with the impress of God's beauty upon it, can be turned to its Maker's glory. She gives him thanks when she uses it; she elevates it to the supernatural order, by praising, as did the Royal Prophet, Him Who shadowed the likeness of His own beauty on this world of created things, which men so often abuse to their perdition, but which were intended as so many steps to lead us to our God.

The gift of Understanding teaches the Christian a just appreciation of the state of life in which God has placed him. It shows him the wisdom and mercy of those designs of Providence which have, at times, disconcerted his own plans, and led him in a direction the very opposite to his wishes. He sees that had he been left to arrange things according to his own views, he would have gone astray; whereas now, God has put him in the right place, though the workings of his Fatherly wisdom were, at first, hidden from him. Yes, he is so happy now! he enjoys such peace of soul! he knows not how sufficiently to thank his God for having brought him, where he is, without consulting his poor fancies! If such a Christian as this be called upon to give counsel, if either duty or charity require him to guide others, he may safely be trusted; the gift of Understanding teaches him to see the right thing for others as well as for himself. Not that he ever intrudes his counsel upon others, or makes himself adviser-general to all around him; but if his advice be asked, he gives it, and the advice seems a reflex of the inward light that burns within him.

Such is the gift of Understanding. It is the true light of the soul, and it is weaker or stronger according to the measure of her correspondence with the other Gifts. Its safeguards are humility, restraint over the desires of the heart, and interior recollection. Dissipation of mind would dim its brightness, or even wholly put out the light. But where duty imposes occupation, not only busy and frequent, but even distracting, let the Christian discharge them with a pure intention, and his soul will not lose her recollection. Let him be single-hearted, let him be little in his own eyes, and that which God hides from the proud and reveals to the humble (St. Luke, x. 21), will be manifested to him and abide with him.

It is evident from all this, that the gift of Understanding is of immense importance to the salvation and sanctification of the soul. It behoves us, therefore, to beg it of the Holy Ghost with all the earnestness of supplication; for we must not forget, that it is obtained rather by the longings of our love, than by any efforts of the intellect. True, it is the intellect that receives the light; but it is the heart, the will, inflamed with love, that wins the radiant Gift. Hence that saying of Isaias: Unless ye Believe, ye shall not Understand (Is. vii. 9; thus quoted from the Septuagint by several of the Greek and Latin Fathers)! Let us, then, address ourselves to the Holy Spirit in these words of the Psalmist: Open thou our eyes, and we will consider the wondrous things of thy law! Give us understanding, and we shall live (Ps.cxvii. 10 and 144)! Let us beseech Him in these words of the Apostle, wherein He is praying for His Ephesians: let us make his prayer our own: "Give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation, whereby we may have the knowledge of our God! Enlighten the eyes of our heart, that we may know what is the hope of our calling, and what the riches of the glorious inheritance prepared for the Saints (Eph. i. 17, 18)!"


The Gift of Wisdom

The second favour destined by the Holy Ghost for the soul that is faithful to Him in action, is the gift of Wisdom, which is superior to that of Understanding. The two are, however, connected together, inasmuch as the object shown by the gift of Understanding, is held and relished by the gift of Wisdom. When the Psalmist invites us to draw nigh to God, he bids us relish our sovereign good: Taste, says he, and see that the Lord is sweet (Ps. xxxiii. 9)! Holy Church prays for us, on the Day of Pentecost, that we may "relish what is right and just,"--recta sapere,-- because the union of the soul with God is rather an experience or tasting, than a sight, for such sight would be incompatible with our present state. The light given by the gift of Understanding is not intuitive; it gladdens the soul, and gives her an instinctive tendency to the truth, but its own final perfection depends upon its union with Wisdom, which is, as it were, its end.

Understanding, therefore, is light; Wisdom is union. Now, union with the sovereign good is attained by the will, that is, by love, which is in the will. Thus, in the angelic hierarchy, the Cherubim, with their sublime intellect, are below the Seraphim, who are inflamed with love. It is quite true, that the Cherubim have ardent love, and the Seraphim profound intelligence; but they differ from each other by their predominating quality; and that choir is the higher of the two which approaches the nearer to the Divinity by its love and relish of the sovereign good.

The seventh gift is called by the beautiful name of Wisdom, which is taken from its uniting the soul, by love, to the Eternal Wisdom. This Eternal Wisdom, Who mercifully puts Himself within our reach even in this vale of tears, is the Divine Word, Whom the Apostle calls the brightness of the Father's glory, and the figure of his substance (Heb. i. 3). It is He who sent us the Holy Ghost, that He might sanctify us and lead us to Himself; so that the sublimest of the workings of this Holy Spirit is His procuring our union with Him, Who, being God, became Flesh, and for our sakes, made Himself obedient unto death, even to the death of the Cross (Philipp. ii. 8). By the mysteries wrought in His Humanity, Jesus enabled us to enter within the veil of His Divinity; by faith, enlightened by supernatural Understanding, we see the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father (St. John, i. 14); and just as He made Himself a partaker of our lowly human nature, so does He give Himself, the uncreated Wisdom, to be loved and relished by that created Wisdom, which the Holy Ghost forms within us, and is the noblest of His Gifts. Happy, then, they who possess this precious Wisdom, which makes the soul relish God and the things that are of God!

The sensual man, says the Apostle, perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God (I Cor. ii. 14); and in order that he may enjoy this Gift, he must become spiritual, and docile to the teachings of the Holy Spirit; and then there would happen to him, what has happened to thousands of others, namely, that after being a slave to a carnal life, he would recover his Christian freedom and dignity. The man who is less depraved than the former, but still imbued with the spirit of this world, is also incapable of receiving or even comprehending the gifts of Understanding and Wisdom. He is ever ridiculing those whom he cannot help knowing possess these gifts; he never leaves them in peace, but is ever carping at their conduct, setting himself in opposition to them, and, at times, seeks to satiate his jealousy by bitter persecution. Jesus assures us, that the World cannot receive the Spirit of Truth, because it seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him (St. John, xiv. 17). They, therefore, who would possess the supreme good, must first divorce themselves from the spirit of the world, which is the personal enemy of the Spirit of God. If they break asunder the chain that now fetters them, they may hope to be gifted with Wisdom.

The special result of this Gift is great vigor in the soul, and energy in all her powers. Her whole life is, so to speak, seasoned with it; the effect may be likened to that produced in the body by wholesome diet. There is no disagreement between such a soul and her God; and hence, her union with Him is almost inevitable. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, says the Apostle, there is liberty (II. Cor. iii. 17). Everything is easy to the soul that is under the influence of the Spirit of Wisdom. Things that are hard to nature, are sweet to such a soul; and suffering does not appall her, as once it did. To say that God is near to her is saying too little; she is united with Him. And yet, she must keep herself in an attitude of profound humility, for pride may reach her even in that exalted state, and oh! how terrible would be her fall!

Let us, with all the earnestness of our hearts, beseech the Holy Ghost to give us this Wisdom, which will lead us to our Jesus, the Infinite Wisdom. One who was wise under the Old Law aspired to this Gift, when he wrote these words, of which we Christians alone can appreciate the full meaning: I wished, and Understanding was given to me; and I called upon God and the Spirit of Wisdom came upon me (Wisd. vii. 7). So that we are to ask for this gift, and with great fervour. In the New Covenant, we have the Apostle St. James thus urging us to pray for it: If any of you want Wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (Rom. vii. 17). O Holy Spirit! we presume to follow this injunction of the Apostle, and say to Thee: O thou Who proceedest from Power and Wisdom! give us Wisdom! He that is Wisdom has sent Thee unto us, that thou mayst unite us to Him. Take us from ourselves, and unite us to Him Who united Himself to our weak nature. O sacred source of Unity! be thou the link uniting us forever to Jesus; then will the Father adopt us as his heirs, and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. vii. 17)!