What are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Isaiah foretold that the Holy Spirit would rest upon the promised Messiah, Emmanuel, and that he would possess wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge, fear of the Lord (Is 11:2), and piety. As Jesus was blessed with these gifts by his Father, every believer is blessed with the same gifts by the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom is first gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the ability to exercise good judgment. It is grounded in common sense and comes from life experience, thoughtful reflection, and learning life’s lessons in “The School of Hard Knocks.” Wisdom distinguishes between right and wrong, seeks and upholds truth and justice, and balances personal good with the common good. In the Old Testament wisdom is personified in Sophia, the mythical mother of faith, hope, and love; while in the New Testament wisdom is personified in Jesus himself.

Understanding is the gift of intelligence and enlightenment. It is the ability to perceive, comprehend, and interpret information; to have insight and discern meaning.

Counsel is good advice. It is the ability to teach and inform, guide and direct, warn and admonish, recommend and encourage. The Holy Spirit offers this special gift to parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, advisors, supervisors, elders, and the like. Counsel is not only the ability to give good advice, but to receive it as well.

Fortitude is an unwavering commitment to God or a proper course of action, and it shows itself is moral strength, courage, determination, patient endurance, long suffering, a resolute spirit, stamina, and resiliency.

Knowledge is the ability to study and learn; to acquire, retain, and master a wide spectrum of information; and to put it to good use for constructive purposes.

Fear of the Lord is awe, reverence, and respect for God. It downplays human self-sufficiency and acknowledges that everything comes from God. Consequently, those who “Fear the Lord” gladly offer their praise, worship, and adoration to God alone.

Piety is the only gift not part of Isaiah’s original list. Piety is personal holiness, the ability to live a decent life, free of sin, devoted to God, and obedient to God’s will.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles.

© 2011, Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun
Used with permission.