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  • Dr. Karen Shields Wright

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: An Introduction for Study & Reflection

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

And from your celestial home

Shed a ray of light divine!Come,

Father of the poor!

Come, source of all our store!    

Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;

You, the soul’s most welcome guest;    

Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;

Grateful coolness in the heat;  

Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,

Shine within these hearts of yours,    

And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,

Nothing good in deed or thought,  

 Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour your dew;    

Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;    

Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore

And confess you, evermore    

In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;

Give them your salvation, Lord;    

Give them joys that never end. Amen.    




Our hope is for you to become more familiar with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are available to all baptized, and how to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit, who has been there for us all along. Moreover, to address a few long-standing questions you may have had. Such as: "How do I know I have been open to and guided and strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit?" (The short answer: we will know, for it is by the fruits produced).


In reflecting upon the Gifts of the Holy Spirit during this time, you can begin to look at a renewing of your understanding of the graces you 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.


Begin with: What do you ask of God in this time? What grace do you desire?

I prayer for this grace to receive_____________________________________.

Example: Where have I seen the effects of these Gifts of the Spirit of God in my life?


Any questions or thoughts, please connect.

[1] The list of the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit has been taken from Loyola Press website, and the commentary of St. Thomas Aquinas and others: The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality and The New Dictionary of Theology.

Preparing for Your Retreat

Review of retreat guidelines and prayers


Your Retreat Mornings - Offering, Lectio, Reflection

Put aside personal prayer time in the morning and the evening.

·      The mornings for the prayerful reading (Lectio), contemplation of the exercises, and reflection.

·      The evenings are for review of the day with the Examen and reading the next day’s Exercise for understanding.


  What are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?[1]

1.   Wisdom helps us recognize the importance of others and the importance of keeping God central in our lives.


2.   Understanding is the ability to comprehend the meaning of God's message.


3.   Knowledge is the ability to think about and explore God's revelation, and also to recognize there are mysteries of faith beyond us.


4.   Counsel is the ability to see the best way to follow God's plan when we have choices that relate to him.


5.   Fortitude is the courage to do what one knows is right.


6.   Piety helps us pray to God in true devotion.


7.   Fear of the Lord is the feeling of amazement before God, who is all-present, and whose friendship we do not want to lose.




Where do we find these gifts the Scriptures?


Old Testament

In the Book of Isaiah the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are considered the ones that the future Messiah would have possessed. 


Isaiah 11: 1-3  

The Ideal Davidic King

"1 a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,  and from his roots a bud shall blossom.2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength,    a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,3and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord."


This passage represents one of the OT’s best-known descriptions of the ideal king of the future. Although these seven “spirits” are not listed as such in the NT, it is clear that Jesus is the fulfillment of the messianic text as we see in written in John1:32 32 “John (the Baptist) testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.” 


Note: Like a dove: a symbol of the new creation (Gn 8:8) or the community of Israel (Hos 11:11)



The New Testament

The Promises of Christ: Pre-Resurrection

All the words here were given to the disciples during the Last Supper. Today we would call such words someone’s farewell address, last will and testimony, one’s legacy, one’s fulfillment of their life’s work. 

Selections from the Gospel of John Chapters 13-17 


"During the Last Supper, after Jesus washed the disciple's feet, he had announced Judas's betrayal. Directly Judas' left. Jesus then gave them this new commandment "to love one another as I have loved you first." He continued on, "do not let your hearts be trouble; you have faith in God, so have faith also in me."  He said, "believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me and whoever believes in me will do the works that I do because I am going to the Father… If you love me, you will keep my commandments, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth. ... and when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.  I have told you this while I am with you.  The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. ..Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 


Jesus continued on with, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because, without me, you can do nothing." "Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete."  "



In meditating on this scripture

[1] New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Post Resurrection 

We have recently walked with Jesus in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection as He continued to fulfill his earthly mission. During His time after the resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and many others, offering consolation in addition to giving Peter his new role as head of His Church on earth. His instructions were to them was to go out and proclaim the good news and to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


The Book of Acts: Chapter 1

Chapter 1 The Promise of the Spirit. "1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days[b] and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father[c] about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. 


The Ascension of Jesus. 6 When they had gathered together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going[d] to restore the kingdom to Israel?" [e]He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. 8 [f]But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 



The Book of Acts Chapter 2: The Wind and Fire for the Mission


The Coming of the Spirit 1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. 


Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” 12 They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.”





“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”

Romans 8:14



 Example of Distributions of the Gifts

“Christ alone received them all and distributed them to all his believers according to their merits.” (Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho ch 87)


Example in the ‘Old Testament’ 

·      Solomon the Spirit of Wisdom

·      Daniel the Spirit of Understanding and Counsel


Example in the ‘New Testament’ 

1 Corinthians Chapter 12: 1-11, 27-29

Unity and Variety. Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware… And no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit. [There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;  to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;  to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. 


One Body, Many Parts. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.


27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. 28 And God has [u]appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then [v]miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of [w]miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.


Selections From Scripture on the Different Gifts


 ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ Proverbs 3:5-6.


‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.’ Prov 11:2


‘’By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.’ Prov 24:3


‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.’ James 3:17


‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Rom 12:2



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

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 with 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. “




Intellect and Four Gifts

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

Wisdom and Intellect

The greatest of the seven assists us in seeing and evaluating the aspects of everyday living in relation to God and God's Kingdom, according to principles of faith aided by a 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 and Intellect

Understanding, like wisdom, is a gift for comprehending the things of life in relation to God for achieving deepener 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 and Intellect

Knowledge aids in the grasping of divine truths even when they are unsearchable by the human mind. There is an acknowledgment that brings a 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 endlessly for an answer, to experience being in a place of consolation knowing it will all be okay somehow? 


Counsel and Intellect

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

Will and Three Gifts 


Piety and 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 the love of God and neighbor.


Fortitude and Will 

Fortitude gives us the courage to bear sufferings in tranquility, 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 AND Will 

Fear of the Lord 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.




Faith, Hope, and Love.


‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’ Romans 5:1-5


  • When was there a time you endured, proven your character, and or lived in hope?

  • What Gifts of the Holy Spirit might have been working in you?

  • When was there a time you did not endured, failed in your character, or not lived in hope?  Was that something you tried to do alone?




When Do We Receive the Gifts?


It is through Jesus salvific gift that we receive these Gifts of the Holy Spirit at baptism from the Father and in the Sacrament of Confirmation they are strengthen and sealed.


Reflecting on the Fruits of the Holy Spirit 

How do we know if we are accepting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

“Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)

This passage in Matthew's Gospel helps us to understand the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the observable behaviors of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them.’[1]


The tradition of the Church lists 12 fruits:















5 Ways of Reflecting on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit


In reviewing each of the 5 consider the following questions, for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are to strengthen us for others.


  1. Review each Gift and ask:

·      What is my understanding of ______________ as gift?

·      Where has the Holy Spirit’s Gift of __________been operating in____________?

·      What has been my experience of  ________________?

·      Where have I been able to strengthen others through the Gift of______________ ? 



2.  What Gifts have you been opened to receiving and seen God’s action in others? What Gifts do you desire to have more of?


Isaiah 50: “The Lord opened my ear: I do not refuse, did not turn away.”


3. Refection starting point with Action

·      Bring to mind an encounter with another.

·      Reflect on the fruits of that encounter.

·      Consider what gifts were provided for you that you cooperated with that allowed you to take such a loving action.

4. Refection starting point with the Effects

·      Look at the list of fruits.

·      What encounter have you had in which you experienced and seen those fruit[s].

·      Consider what gifts were provided for you that you cooperated with that allowed you to take such a loving action to experience the fruit[s].

5. Refection starting point with the Opposite Effects

From the list of the fruits – select one that stands out as what you desired yet you experienced the opposite.

·      What action did you take?

·      What voice were you listening to?

·      What gift of the Holy Spirit would of helped that situation.

·      Remember the Gifts (Gifts are God’s action {the cause] and your actions are there always for you for building up others and the community, and the Fruits are what you (effects) experience and possible they may experience too.






Article: How do we know if we are hearing the voice of God


Who and what are we listening to?


The Three Voices

·      Holy Spirit (promptings and inspirations)

·      Ours – Rational Moral Self (conscience) or Self-Guilt  (the would of’s, should of’s, could of’s based upon a false reality)

·      Others  -  other persons based upon past experiences or the enemy of our human nature


Connecting with our interiority in particular to our affective self (emotions, feelings, thoughts, memories), will give us a clue where we are headed and whose voice we are listening to.


Faith & Reason in use

It’s what we do with our emotions (reactive) and feelings (experience of the emotions connected with our memory and current thoughts) that is the moral choice.


This is where the first two powers of the rational soul are brought to bear - Intellect and Will related to Knowing and Loving.



Discernment & The Gifts*

Ignatian Discernment

Ignatius speaks about an experience of - complete openness to God - a ‘consolation without cause’.  It is a Gift of the Holy Spirit, God in action.


Ignatian discernment calls for concrete choices to be make on the basis of this ‘felt knowledge’, this gifted experience of God’s presence.  Such an experience presupposed that an individual has achieved detachment from lesser objects. 


Contemporary approaches to discernment

Contemporary approaches to discernment is an assessment of inspirations, intuitions, affective states, and impulses in term of their sources and their congruity with the overall direction of one’s personal spiritual life. 


The discerning moral agent, in part, seeks to follow that course of action which is in harmony with the affections evident in the Scriptures in listening to the Holy Spirit as such as a radical dependence on God.


[1] New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)


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