We now continue with the last two gifts of the Holy Spirit: counsel and fortitude.
The gift of counsel is “to render the individual docile and receptive to the counsel of God regarding one’s actions in view of sanctification and salvation.” Primarily, this gift enables a person to judge individual acts as good and ought to be done, or as evil and ought to be avoided. Aiding the virtue of prudence, the Holy Spirit not only makes our heart docile to search for the truth (as taught by the church) and to accept it, but also helps us to remember and learn from past events. The counsel given pertains to one’s own personal sanctification and ultimate supernatural end. Therefore, this gift prompts the person to ask himself, “Is this act true to Christ and the teachings of this church? Does this act lead to or strengthen holiness? Will this act lead to heaven?” Therefore, the gift of counsel enlightens a person to know what must be done at this particular time, place and circumstance; it also enlightens us to counsel others who ask for advice and direction.
Clearly, the gift of counsel perfects the virtue of prudence; however, while the virtue of prudence operates in accord with reason as enlightened by faith, this gift operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the counsel given may be that about which reason would not be able to give an explanation. As Our Lord said to the Apostles, “When they hand you over, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you” (Mt 10:18-20).
For example, St. Catherine of Siena, although very young and without any great training, counseled, even admonished, Popes Gregory XI and Urban VI. As a priest, I have been asked to give advice or provide spiritual direction to individuals. Oftentimes, when I am finished, I am “surprised” at myself and can only say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” Also, when preparing a homily, I pray to the Holy Spirit to help me know what I need to preach to my people and what will benefit them.
To cultivate this gift, a person should pray for the help of the Holy Spirit (in particular for the gifts of knowledge and understanding). Also, continued study of sacred Scripture and the teachings of the church, especially in the moral issues of the day, provide fuel for this gift.
The gift of fortitude, our last gift to consider, enables a person “to overcome difficulties or to endure pain and suffering with the strength and power infused by God.” Through fortitude, the Holy Spirit inspires and energizes a person to undertake great things joyfully and without fear despite obstacles.
As with the other gifts, fortitude operates under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, so it perfects the virtue of fortitude, charging it with energy, endurance, perseverance and promptness. It strengthens a person to resist evil, to overcome lukewarmness and persevere to everlasting life. Moreover, it brings a confidence of success and certain hope, despite the most difficult circumstances.
For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe not only had great fortitude to offer his life promptly in exchange for another and to endure a horrible death, but also had the confidence of success that he would overcome the powers of evil and gain everlasting life. Blessed Teresa of Kolkata generously spent her life and persevered in her work among “the poorest of the poor,” day in and day out, despite dangers,
weariness and overwhelming circumstances.
The gift of fortitude enables the individual to live the other virtues heroically. So, a person can cultivate this virtue by recognizing one’s own weaknesses and limitations, begging for the gift of fortitude, and relying on the strength of Our Lord Jesus Himself.
Second, we need the strength and nourishment of the holy Eucharist. St. John Chrysostom said, upon receiving holy Communion, “Let us return from that table as lions breathing fire, terrible to the devil,” meaning to go forth not with fear, but with hearts afire with the love of the Lord Himself.
Thirdly, we can foster the gift of fortitude by keeping to a spiritual regimen: taking time to pray throughout the day, including 15 minutes devoted to prayer and studying or doing spiritual reading for 15 minutes; making a confession monthly; attending Sunday Mass, and even daily Mass once a week; and making a regular, even daily, examination of conscience. Another part of this spiritual regimen would be to make a purposeful sacrifice daily (e.g. giving up a dessert or a drink or doing an act of charity), for a special intention, like the poor souls in purgatory or the Christians suffering persecution. If we can be faithful and do our duty in “little things,” more likely we will do the same in “big things.”
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are great gifts essential for our sanctification and salvation. Each baptized and confirmed Christian should implore the Holy Spirit to inflame his soul with these gifts. St. John Paul II said, “With gifts and qualities such as these, we are equal to any task and capable of overcoming any difficulties.”