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St. Thomas Aquinas on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit*

Updated: Feb 2

In reflecting upon the Gifts of the Holy Spirit during Easter time, we can begin to look at a renewing of our understanding of these graces we have received through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. These gifts have been given to us as a promise of God-Self Revealed in the person of Jesus Christ to send us a helper, who has been and will always be with us – God’s Spirit, Holy and One within the Trinity.

The short list of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit in the other articles have been taken from Loyola Press website, and the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas and others I took from my textbooks: The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality and The New Dictionary of Theology. I also offer here reflection questions from my personal retreat time for you to consider.

Those moved by the gifts of the Holy Spirit are aided to act in a way that transcends a merely human mode. A believer is not merely passive but active in such a way that one’s responses to the gifts are at one God’s and one’s own. With the gifts, God acts not from the outside but from within us. A human openness to God where one follows the immanent (interior) Spirit’s promptings with docility, joy, and a certain ease. An at onement.

“In distinguishing the Gifts (what God does) from Virtues (what we develop) we ought to follow Scriptures’ own way of speaking. There they are spoken as ‘spirits’ rather than gifts…. From this way of speaking, we are obviously given to understand that these seven are in us by divine inspiration…. such denotes a motion coming from the outside…. There are two principles of movement in man: one which is intrinsic to him namely reason; the other extrinsic namely God… now it is evident that the human virtues perfect man insofar as it is his nature to be moved by reason in things he does, both interiorly and exteriorly. There must, therefore, be still higher perfection in man to dispose him to be moved by God. These perfections are called Gifts, not only because they are infused by God, but also because they dispose him to be readily mobile to divine inspiration, here we have a receptivity to divine inspiration. “

For St. Thomas Aquinas these four Gifts are related to the Intellect

Wisdom – the greatest of the seven, assists us in seeing and evaluation of the aspects of everyday living in relation to God and God’s Kingdom, according to principles of Faith aided by judgment of Love. Moving beyond ordinary use of reason, the Gift of Wisdom involves a process of coming to glean the deeper meaning, hidden treasures, and sublime harmonies of faith and truths.

When have you come to a knowingness or insight that offered a comfort – something that was not of your own making or from your usual thought process – something that came from within without any external stimulus or intentional memory?

Understanding like wisdom, is a gift for comprehending the things of life in relation to God for achieving deeper insight into the truths. Self and others are seen as made in the image of God; and in creation are discovered the vestiges of God which point to God the Creator.

When have you experienced a ‘moment of insight’ seeing the beauty of God’s creation in a person whom you did not even like or who had harmed you?
What deeper truths have been revealed to you in your understanding of our interconnectedness as we move together working in and through this divine milieu?

Knowledge - aids in the grasping of divine truths even when they are unsearchable by the human mind. There is an acknowledgement that brings heightened appreciation of the surpassing greatness of God.

What does this description of knowledge come up in you?
When have you come to finally rest after searching endless for an answer, to experience being in a place of consolation knowing it will all be okay somehow?

Counsel - relates specifically to the practical intellect and is thus connected to the virtue of prudence. This gift builds openness to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration in the activities of reflecting, discerning, consulting, and advising on matters of teaching or acting.

The other 3 gifts have to do with the Will.

Piety - associated with the virtue of religion, orients believers to be devoted to God and in turn to be united with brothers and sisters sharing that devotion. It encompasses worship of God, moments of prayers as well as in our lives to be dedicated to love of God and neighbor.

Fortitude - gives us courage to bear sufferings tranquilly, to overcome fears, to resist temptations, and to take and carry out difficult tasks for the glory of God and the welfare of others.

Fear of the Lord - is related to the virtues of Hope, Love and Temperance. The Gift brings proper use of pleasure and the senses on the basis of a sensitivity to the activity of God and reverse for God’s majesty. Born of the poverty of spirit ( Humility), this special kind of fear does not block an intimate union with God, but inhibits our offense of God. We fear offending the ones we love.

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