During this 9-day period between the Ascension and Pentecost, it is fitting to reflect on the significance of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We first receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism, but at Confirmation we receive a full share in the Holy Spirit and a strengthening in the Spirit’s Gifts. I have vivid memories of my own Confirmation at the hands of Bishop Curtis back in 1990, including the sad fact that it didn’t mean much to me. I didn’t understand the significance of the sacrament and how it was supposed to affect my life. I probably wasn’t alone among my classmates. It’s only been in recent years that I started to have a sense of how remarkable the Gifts are. This has helped me to recognize the reality of how the Holy Spirit works in my life and helps me with everything I do.
There are 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and they are easily remembered using this awkward acronym: PUFWACK. This stands for Piety, Understanding, Fortitude, Wisdom, Awe, Counsel, and Knowledge. Over the next week, I’m going to try to post something about each one of the gifts along with a prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to make us more sensitive to the movements of the Spirit within us. Too often we forget the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is God, no less than the Father and the Son, so it’s very important that we know the Spirit and ask the Spirit to guide us and make itself known.
An image that might be helpful in understanding the way the Gifts of the Holy Spirit help us is the activity of riding a bicycle. To ride a bike requires effort. When we put effort into it, we get into better shape and we can ride for longer and go faster. Even hills don’t pose much of a problem for an experienced cyclist. The cyclist is an image of a person who has grown in the virtues and who strives to live a righteous life. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are like an electric motor connected to the bicycle, which allow the cyclist who has developed his cycling skill to ride faster and longer than he could have imagined otherwise. Even mountains that had been impossible to scale before are climbed with minimal effort. In a similar way, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural assistance offered to us that enable us to respond to situations and do things in a way that we could not otherwise. The one who has received the Gifts will be given insights and perspective, as well as courage and wonder that manifest through him the glory of God in the world. But for us to make use of the Gifts, we must be in a state of grace. Serious sin prevents us from availing ourselves of the Gifts. It would be to disconnect the electric motor from the bike’s gears, thus losing access to the power that would propel us forward. As we set aside attachments to serious sin and live habitually in a state of grace, we will become more sensitive to the movements of the Holy Spirit and learn how to recognize and respond to the Spirit’s promptings in our daily lives.
In the Gospel of John, Our Lord tells Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit sometimes moves within us in an easily sensible way – like a breeze that refreshes us. Other times the Spirit moves slowly and imperceptibly, but powerfully within us like the deepest currents of the oceans. But it is always mysterious, and the one who is attuned to its movements will never fail to be surprised by what the Spirit wishes to do through him.
Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up Thy dwelling within my soul, and make of it Thy sacred temple. Make me live by grace as an adopted son of God. Pervade all the energies of my soul, and create in me a fountain of living water springing up into life everlasting. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be, etc.