“And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge according to the sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears. But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: land he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of his reins” (Isaiah 11:1-5).
(A rose window from a church in Spain; my photo)
For quite some time now, I’ve wondered about the meaning of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are mentioned in the quote above. For instance, what’s the difference between wisdom, understanding, and knowledge? Or what’s counsel?
For help, I’ve turned to Fr. Louis Lallemant, a Jesuit French spiritual writer of the early 17th century. His approach is rather clear and insightful, so I decided to include his definitions in this post. For each gift, Fr. Lallemant also provides a corresponding opposed vice, a corresponding beatitude, and a corresponding series of fruits. I hope that you find this info as enjoyable and illuminating as I have.
Wisdom: “Wisdom is defined to be a knowledge acquired by first principles… Wisdom is such knowledge of God, his attributes, and mysteries, as is full of savour… Wisdom looks at God himself, the knowledge of whom is full of attractions and sweetness.”
- Opposed vice: folly
- Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Wisdom orders things according to God.
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit: faith– “the soul relishing divine things cleaves more firmly to the belief of them and the sort of experimental knowledge which it thus obtains serves it as a kind of evidence of their reality.”
Understanding: “Understanding is the intimate knowledge of an object… The gift of understanding is a light which the Holy Spirit bestows, in order to penetrate intimately those obscure truths which faith proposes.”
- Opposed vice: dullness in respect to spiritual things
- Beatitude: “Blessed are the clean of heart.”
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit: faith– “render[s] faith more penetrating, more lively, and more perfect.”
Knowledge: “Knowledge is defined to be an assured acquaintance with things acquired by reasoning; but in God it is without reasoning, and by a simple view of objects… The gift of knowledge, which is a participation in the knowledge of God, is a light of the Holy Spirit which illuminates the soul to human things, and to form a true judgment of them in reference to God and so far as they are the objects of faith.”
- Opposed vice: ignorance
- Beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn.” We expect from creatures only wretchedness.
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit: faith– “perfects the knowledge we have gained of human actions and of creatures from the light of faith.”
Counsel: “Counsel is an act of prudence prescribing the means to be chosen for attaining an end… It is a light by which the Holy Spirit shows what we ought to do in the [particular] time, place, and circumstances in which we find ourselves.”
- Opposed vices: hastiness, eagerness, rashness, and slowness
- Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful.” It helps us assist others in need.
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit: cannot specify
Piety: “Piety is that tender and loving disposition of the heart which leads us to honour and serve our relations and friends. The gift of piety is an habitual disposition which the Holy Spirit communicates to the soul to excite it to a filial affection towards God.”
- Opposed vice: hardness of heart
- Beatitude: “Blessed are the meek.”
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: goodness and benignity
Fortitude: “Fortitude is a virtue which strengthens us against fear and dread of the difficulties, dangers, and toils which present themselves in the execution of our undertakings… It is an habitual disposition which the Holy Spirit communicates to the soul and to the body both to do and to suffer extraordinary things.”
- Opposed vices: timidity or human fear and cowardice
- Beatitude: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice.”
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: longanimity and patience
Fear of God: “Fear of God is an habitual disposition which the Holy Spirit communicates to the soul to maintain it in a state of reverence before the majesty of God, and of dependence upon and submission to his will, causing it to fly from everything that can displease him.”
- Opposed vice: a spirit of pride, independence, and license
- Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit: modesty, temperance, and chastity
–All quotes come from The Spiritual Doctrine of Fr. Louis Lallemant
David J.W. Inczauskis, n.S.J.