The Seven Gifts of The Holy Spirit

Spirit of Pentecost ©FrogDiva Photography

Spirit of life
Fill our emptiness with your fullness
Spirit of power
Stir our hearts afresh
Spirit of love
Touch us, and through us, our neighbour
Spirit of Creativity
Enable and empower the gifts you have given
Spirit of Eternity
Draw us ever deeper into your Kingdom
(source: Faith and Worship)

Pentecost is a Christian holiday that few understand, even fewer can explain, and difficult, if not impossible, to accept for non-believers. Although I am a woman of great faith and draw my inner strength from it, I have always struggled with Pentecost. This is where I envied my parents’ faith and their devotion to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and forgive me if it sounds utterly pretentious and snobbish to use the Latin forms, but I like them far better than the English translations:

Sapientia
Intellectus
Consilium
Fortitudo
Scientia
Pietas
Timor Domini

Mommy in particular was very keen to make me understand these gifts and to nurture my understanding of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, she was not as successful as she had hoped to be, basically because I lacked the ability to open my mind and embrace the concept. Four years of Theology at the university eventually provided the much needed academic foundation to sort all this out, but incorporating it into my life was a different story, especially if you take St. Augustine’s view:

Sapientia (wisdom): the virtue of charity. I suppose this is why I got into development work in the first place and tried to live out the motto of preferential option for the poor. At first it was the economically and socially impoverished that were the focus of my work, as I grew older, the poor in spirit became part of my private apostolate.

Intellectus (understanding): St. Augustine correlates this to the virtue of faith. Yes, faith is a virtue, and sets the foundation for life principles to live by, but above all, faith is a gift. Not everyone is privileged enough to receive it, and even fewer will live by it. I can’t speak for others, but I do know that none of my strength that I possess today would exist without faith.

Consilium (counsel): The virtue of prudence is where I have failed St. Augustine the most, and I suppose my mother. It would have been more prudent to take the safer and conservative options in life, but had I done that, the life I lead in India, Thailand and Germany would never have come to fruition. The list of things in my life where I chose the more dangerous path is long, and I doubt very much that it will ever stop growing. Life is only lived once, and I do not wish to watch opportunities pass me because it would be the prudent thing to do.

Fortitudo (Fortitude): The virtue of courage is something I have far too much of and consequently leads me to be imprudent. Divorce, depression, relocation, and ruin did not and will not stop me from standing up each and every time I fall. Courage, however, is never to be mistaken for fearless. It takes great courage to face my own fears, and I have learned to rely on my courage because of my faith.

Scientia (Knowledge): Knowledge is power, but little knowledge is disastrous (just ask any politician). Stupid mistakes are made in life by not possessing sufficient knowledge about a person, place or thing. Being well prepared in life for any eventuality will save your skin one way or another. Daddy was very slow in making decisions, and this would frustrate me to no end in my youth. Later on I understood that the reason he took so long to make a decision was because he did through research or background checks before coming to an educated conclusion. Did I learn my lesson? Partially. I do my research, and explore all the angles first, regardless of whether I am writing a book or deciding to buy something, but I also inherited my mother’s penchant for instant gratification. I want things to happen immediately and to see visible results ASAP.

Pietas (Piety): the virtue of reverence is not about being religious, but about being just. Faithful, I am, religious I am not. And development work has taught me to seek justice for the poor and poor in spirt whenever and wherever possible. This virtue, however, requires a humility and self-control that I struggle with almost on a daily basis. I can’t help but think of my patron saint Teresa of Avila who was a courageous woman with great faith, courage and knowledge, but was also irreverent when it came to questioning the Lord’s plan and injustice of the world. I envy her faith though:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

Timor Domini (Fear of the Lord): The Old Testament talks about a faith that fears the Lord and His wrath, which I never agreed with. The New Testament, on the other hand, speaks of hope, and it is on this premise that St. Augustin theologises on the last virtue of the Holy Spirit. Even in my darkest hours I never lost hope. They solutions I pray for may not always be the ones granted, but as I quoted the other day, man proposes and the Lord disposes. Failure, in my book, will only encroach upon your mind and soul the moment hope is lost.

A blessed Pentecost to all.

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