The Gifts of the Holy Spirit 4 - Jun 7 PDF Print E-mail
2009 - Archbishop's Column by Archbishop Gilbert
Friday, 05 June 2009 14:52

Archbishop GilbertMy column this week will conclude the catechesis on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It will consider Fortitude and Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence).

The pastoral questions will also be considered, namely, why are so many people in need of catechesis about the Gifts of the Spirit and why is it that so few use their faith knowledge about the Gifts for their spirituality and participation in the evangelising mission of the Church?

It is to be noted that Fortitude and Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence) concern practical conduct in relation to self.


The definition: Fortitude is a supernatural habit which strengthens the soul for the practice, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, of every type of virtue with invincible confidence of overcoming any dangers or difficulties that may arise.

The Gift of Fortitude is precisely that - a gift. It is infused by God and when it is operative the initiative comes from the Holy Spirit. The person does not reason to it or dialogue about it. The person responds almost instinctively to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The criterion which differentiates between the virtue of fortitude and the gift of fortitude is the level of confidence in the person.

The gift of fortitude is necessary to perfect virtues (which means that the act of the virtue responds with energy, promptness and perseverance) and, at times, for perseverance in the state of grace. The gift of fortitude removes from the virtue of fortitude every element of indecision. In instances of intense temptation, the gift of fortitude must become operative so that the person can exercise heroic virtue immediately.

As with the other gifts, the gift of fortitude produces specific effect in a person’s soul:

1) It gives persevering strength to the practice of virtue. At the time of temptation, the gift of fortitude helps the person rise above weakness and any lack of confidence. It enables people to respond to challenge with supernatural energy.

2) It challenges lukewarmness in the service of God. Lukewarm people consider it too much of an effort to deal with themselves and multiple situations to fulfil the day-to-day responsibilities of their vocations. They give into weariness and renounce the battle (the word the Catechism of the Catholic Church uses to describe the Christian life).

3) It helps people become courageous in every situation and against every enemy. This type of courage was common in the lives of the saints. Consider the lives of the Apostles before Pentecost and after Pentecost. The Gift of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit enabled them to move from fear to courage even to the point of martyrdom.

4) It enables people to suffer extreme pain with patience and joy. The saints sought suffering. The “folly of the cross” was manifested in their lives in a persevering manner.

Fear of the Lord

This gift is sometimes called Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence even in official sources e.g. in the Bishop’s Pontifical for Confirmation.

The definition: The Gift of Fear of the Lord is a supernatural habit by which the person, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, acquires a special docility for subjecting herself/himself completely to the divine will out of reverence for the majesty of God and a filial (not servile) fear of offending God.

The emphasis in this gift is on love and respect. That is the reason why theologians and liturgists have begun to use the term “Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence” to describe what had been called Fear of the Lord. God is love not fear. In God there is both justice and mercy. The Scriptures remind us that God in justice has punished the chosen people and can punish us for our sins. However, the Scriptures also teach that God’s mercy gives us a firm hope for salvation.

The Gift of Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence) produces definite effects:

1) It gives people a profound sense of God’s greatness and majesty which leads people to adore God with reverence and humility. It also leads people beyond the prayer of petition to the prayer of thanksgiving, praise and adoration.

2) It leads people to see sin for what it is – an offense against God and to have sorrow for sin, a willingness to be reconciled through the Church and to do penance for sin. When this dynamic becomes part of our lives, it enables us to forgive ourselves and move on with our lives.

3) It leads people to be detached from created things. Frequently, sin is caused by attachments to persons, places and things, which place us in the occasion of sin. This gift alerts us to the danger of attachments.

The Pastoral Question

In the introduction to this column, I stated two questions:

1) Why are so many people in need of catechesis on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? and

2) Why are there so few people who use their faith knowledge about the Gifts for their spirituality and the participation in the evangelising mission of the Church?

Response to question #1: The truth is that the Church is still struggling to find ways to involve people in adult education and formation. For centuries the Church concentrated on the catechesis of children and the young.

While that is still true, the challenges of modern life have highlighted the need for adults to continue their theological/spiritual formation throughout their lives. There are now numerous examples of catechetical outreach to adults from the various departments of the Archdiocese.

Until adults as a group begin to respond to this new opportunity, we will have to expect the category of “nice people who just do not understand their faith” to struggle with faith knowledge and formation.

Response to question #2: The response to this question is not complicated. It is to be found in the teaching of the Church on prayer. We cannot live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit and the most common way to be in dialogue with the Holy Spirit is through prayer.

For us to appreciate our faith, we must take the time to reflect on its many aspects in prayer. We must do so in a reasonably systematic way to feed ourselves continually. Part Four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent guide to the Catholic tradition on prayer. We must ask the Holy Spirit in prayer to help us open ourselves to the Gift of the Spirit and to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In addition to the bibliography that I recommended in the first instalment of this series, I recommend that each year during the novena to the Holy Spirit that precedes Pentecost that each reader reviews the four instalments of this catechesis on the Gifts of the Spirit.

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