As Pentecost approaches, we reflect on how the Holy Spirit empowers us to hear God’s voice and heed His promptings in our lives. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah, who would be empowered by the Spirit of the Lord: “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. 11:2-3)
As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, we too share in these gifts, though not to the perfect extent that Jesus embodies. They sustain the moral life of Christians, and they “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them” (CCC 1830-1831). We exercise the virtues with our human reason, prompted by grace, but the gifts of the Spirit operate on a spiritual level, wholly under God’s direction.
St Bernard wrote that the gift of Wisdom enlightens our minds and fosters an attraction to the divine. St Thomas Aquinas explained that it gives us the ability to discern and direct our daily lives according to divine truth, as well as exercising knowledge and discernment in our spiritual lives. The Dominican Fr Adolphe Tanquerey taught that Wisdom is “an experience undergone by the heart”; thus, Wisdom perfects the virtue of charity.
Teachers, as guardians of the developing minds, hearts and souls of the young, may pray for the gift of Wisdom to guide them in this crucial role, helping them to teach to the best of their ability and be a Christlike example to their students.
The gift of Understanding helps us comprehend the truths of our faith, which relate to our salvation. It helps us appreciate Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, giving us insights through prayer, scripture and the sacraments, allowing us to see how Divine Providence is working throughout our lives. Thus, it corresponds to the virtue of faith.
Teachers may pray for the gift of Understanding so as to receive nourishment from the Word of God and share it with their students, maintaining a grateful and joyful disposition, knowing that God provides for us in every circumstance.
The gift of Counsel enhances the virtue of prudence, enabling us to decide swiftly on the right course of action, particularly in challenging circumstances. It helps us to act in accordance with God’s will.
Teachers may pray for the gift of Counsel, that they may be able to discern wisely and promptly while carrying out their duties, administering discipline justly and providing what their students truly require of them.
Originating from the Latin fortis, meaning “brave” or “strong”, Fortitude is a combination of courage and endurance, or firmness of mind, to withstand or avoid evil and commit to doing what God asks of us, no matter the cost.
Teachers may seek the gift of fortitude to overcome all challenges in their profession and persevere through difficulties.
Pope Francis said, “The gift of knowledge puts us in tune with God’s gaze on things and on people. Through this spiritual gift, we are enabled to see every person, and the world around us, in the light of God’s loving plan.” The gift of Knowledge enables us to prioritise God above created things, being able to evaluate what is truly of everlasting value. This gift also corresponds to the virtue of faith.
As purveyors of human knowledge, which can become enticingly all-consuming and puff one up, teachers ought to pray for divine Knowledge so that they can place the eternal things of God above the passing things of man, and demonstrate this to their students.
Just as we express filial piety towards our parents, we are to have piety for God our Father, giving Him worship and due honour. Aquinas propounded that Piety perfects the virtue of religion, which is an aspect of the virtue of justice, as it accords to God what is due to Him: our recognition of His awesome majesty and our total dependence on Him.
Teachers may pray that they act as worthy recipients of the respect accorded to them by students, and be excellent role models to their students in exhibiting piety towards God, devoutly leading lives of faith and wholehearted trust in God.
Fear of the Lord
The Fear of the Lord is the sense of wonder or awe in contemplating our Creator. Pope Francis said it “doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us. It is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realisation that only in Him do our hearts find true peace.”
This spiritual gift makes us unwilling to offend God, not because we fear punishment, but because we love Him and do not want to cause Him pain upon the cross, where Christ suffered for all sins throughout the ages. It perfects the theological virtue of hope.
Teachers may pray for the spiritual eyes to encounter God in daily life, recognising His amazing presence, which establishes an unshakeable sense of serenity throughout the travails of this earthly pilgrimage.
Pray for the Gifts
A novena is a nine-day prayer. The first novena was made by the apostles and Our Lady in the Upper Room between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). During this time of year, we too can pray the Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts.
A beautiful hymn for this season is the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit), attributed to the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who painstakingly numbered every verse of the Bible. A lovely modern rendering of this hymn was composed by John Michael Talbot: