Bishop George asked me to write an article for The Call when he visited St. Stephen ANCC during my ordination. His intention was to help me sort out the emotional, spiritual, and mental changes I was about to experience following my ordination. Like any good shepherd, he knew this goofy sheep well. He knew I would withdraw into myself and would be overwhelmed with questions, thoughts, and emotions. He was correct. I was not at all thrilled to have to write another article. I had just written one and wasn’t sure I had anything to offer. You see, I had no idea what the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit would do to and for me.
The Holy Spirit has several names: Holy Breath, Spirit of God, Spirit of Yahweh, Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Christ, Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit is the very breath of God that descended on Jesus like a dove during his baptism and the tongues of fire that descended on the disciples. We recognize that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, or as St Paul tells the church at Corinth, the “manifestations of the Spirit,” are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ. This is his gift to us! We receive it when we are complete with sanctifying grace. We first received this incredible gift at Baptism and then these gifts are fortified at Confirmation. When I was ordained, these gifts were offered to me renewed.
These gifts, indeed the Holy Spirit herself, “completes and perfects the virtues of those who receive them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1831). In his “The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Scott P. Richert adds, “thus infused we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct, the way Christ himself would.” The first four of these gifts; wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and fortitude, direct us towards our own intellect. The remaining three gifts; counsel, piety, and fear of the Lord, direct us towards the will of God. To know and experience these gifts I had to first name them. I had to make receipt of them a conscious reality in my life.
Once these graces were named and acknowledged, I was ready to be transformed. I half expected the angel Gabriel to visit me. Initially disappointed that I didn’t get the bright lights and thunder, I still waited for something to happen to me. I often heard my mother’s voice telling me to just be thankful for receiving these gifts. What I felt was akin to that smile you get when you’re running late driving to work and all the lights are green. The feeling wasn’t thunderous, it was small and pleasant. I call this feeling the ‘touch.’ For me, the touch is an ever so slight and warm feeling, a barely conscious acknowledgement that something just happened but I don’t have the words to describe it. I get it, but now what?
There is no “now what?” There is only here, now…no need to look further. A good friend likes to tell me that she is ever evolving and she will never be finished growing and learning. This sentiment makes sense to me, but at some point you must say “I have all that I need.” I have been given all the tools. They have been given to me as these special gifts, to be as complete and perfect as my Creator has intended me to be. Sure, I will never stop learning, growing, or changing; however, I need not wait for the other shoe to fall; this is it. The question now becomes “who am I to become?” What an exciting question! What an exciting prospect!
It is not enough for me to simply and solely worship Jesus. It is not enough for me to ask myself, “what would Jesus do?” or to be Jesus-like. Metaphorically, I must BE Jesus. The promise of using these gifts is that we will “respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct, the way Christ himself would.” What better way to be, to act, to pray, to serve like our Lord than by using the very gifts He gave me to accomplish just that. I no longer need to use my all-purpose Leatherman as my only tool! I feel like the home of my heart has been given an extensive renovation! It is enough for me though, both to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be a good steward of the gifts and graces given.
Let us pray:
PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven, did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me:
- the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal;
- the Spirit of Understanding, to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth;
- the Spirit of Counsel, that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven;
- the Spirit of Fortitude, that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation;
- the Spirit of Knowledge, that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints;
- the Spirit of Piety, that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable;
- the Spirit of Fear, that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him.
Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit.
Rev. John Bye-Torre, FCM
St. Stephen ANCC (Seattle, WA)