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The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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Father Hugh illuminates how God freely gives us all we need for our salvation through the sacraments. He defends this position as we discuss Pentecost and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.


CK:
Hello and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett, your host. And it having been … Now, I say that that way, but we were recording before, but it’s Pentecost. Pentecost celebrated on Sunday and this will reach you on Monday. And so we’re going to talk with our Chaplain Father Hugh Barbour about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hello, Father Hugh.

FHB:
Hello.

CK:
So the gifts of the Holy Spirits, are they in the Bible or are they biblical? How do I know about the gifts?

FHB:
They are definitely in the Bible. They’re found in Isaiah 11. But also in another form, in other our Lord’s reading of Isaiah 11 in the New Testament. And they’re also found for us Catholics in the catechism. Which is more easily accessible than Isaiah 11.

CK:
Right. And if you’re about to get confirmed, the Bishop is going to ask you about these during his homily. Are they-

FHB:
Not during the homily, maybe before.

CK:
Before the homily.

FHB:
Yeah. What if your answers answer wrong right during the mass? That would be a terrible thing.

CK:
Yeah. But then you know how the bishops, they always do that thing where they ask the comfirmandi questions and they’re always the gifts of the Holy Spirits.

FHB:
Gives him impression of due diligence. It’s very diligence [crosstalk 00:01:22].

CK:
Right. We want to show off all the hard work that’s been done on behalf of these comfirmandi.

FHB:
Absolutely.

CK:
So what are they? The gifts of the Holy Spirit.

FHB:
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are … And I’m going to read them because you know how it is, even though you know something really well, once you actually want to recite them to somebody. You get all …

CK:
Oh, I know exactly.

FHB:
Bent up.

CK:
Someone asked me the seven sacraments. I always can’t remember.

FHB:
So they’re wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, courage, otherwise in this fortitude, and fear of the Lord. They’re seven.

CK:
Now how do I get them? I said that we get this in the context of confirmation, but is that how I come to have-

FHB:
No. They are increased at confirmation and in particularly because the Bishop actually praise that those gifts by name are bestowed upon those you confirmed. He stretches out his hands over them and he prays for those sevenfold gifts.

Now they’re given to us actually with the first infusion of sanctifying grace into our soul and also by extension our body. So we can say at baptism, we receive the sevenfold gifts of the spirit, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. We also receive the three theological virtues. And by infusion, not by practice, not by effort, not by acquisition, we receive also the Cardinal virtues as well. Justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence.

And so consequently, we received the whole package as it were of the moral life. There’s nothing in all of that. The seven gifts of Holy Spirit, the three theological virtues, and the four Cardinal virtues, that doesn’t include everything you need in order to live a life which is reasonable and also Holy. It’s all there.

CK:
Okay. And then at confirmation, you said these are strengthened or increased?

FHB:
[inaudible 00:03:27] we can have a shown confirmation if you want to do that. But I’ll just say yes, they are increased because confirmation is, as it sounds a confirmation, a strengthening of the grace that’s given in baptism. Precisely those graces that have to do with confronting obstacles to our being able to live the Christian life. And also our ability to worship God according to the rite of the Christian religion in a way which is intelligent and a deliberate. So there’s that element there in the sacrament of confirmation that amplifies you might say, or confirms what’s given in baptism.

CK:
I have to say that when I hear you there list the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it suggests to me that the Christian, but not just the Christian … In Revelation, the image that is given to us of the-

FHB:
Not the book of, but in Divine Revelation.

CK:
No, in Divine Revelation. Yeah, right. Across the totality of Divine Revelation, the interior life is depicted as something very varied and rich. Whereas the modern, we’ve seemed to have collapsed everything down into very … The interior life is not so varied enrich. And I’ll just start with the first three, if I may. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. To the modern mind, those are essentially the same thing. They come to … You know stuff. Why are they distinct when we talk about the Holy Spirit and what is the distinction there?

FHB:
Well, of course in this case, those are names given in our theology to distinguish different aspects of the human person and the faculties of the human person. So for example, at the height of our nature, we have intellect or reason. And then we also have on that spiritual level, will, or what we want to call free will. Which is what we call the intellect’s appetite. So you have knowledge and the desire or the tendency that flows from knowledge, intellect and will. But then you also have our sense knowledge from our five external senses, which collated become imagination. The ability to perceive things that are not there at the moment, but we have that experience of. And then memory, things that have happened in the past. And then our estimate of a sense whereby or cognitive sense for human beings, whereby we’re able to react immediately to dangers or to opportunities.

And then from these can flow all of the passions. There are 11 of them that affect the human soul. Our emotions. And our emotion is really where we need to draw the line here. So consequently, the spiritual life infused into us at baptism has to do with how to maintain all of that. Like how to deal with, love and hatred. Desire and aversion. Hope, despair, fear, courage, all of that stuff. And then of course, joy and anger and joy. All those things. And so consequently, the gifts of Holy Spirit, along with the virtues, the theological and the moral or Cardinal virtues, they are gifts given by God by infusion. That is, they’re not gifts that we do on our own effort, but rather, which are given to us by God, in order to deal well with things.

So for example, wisdom, as you were answering, wisdom has to do with those judgments we make about the highest spiritual things. Whereas the gift of knowledge, for example, would be the judgment we make about things which are more concrete or practical. I mean, there’s a whole Scholastic division based upon the fact that we have knowledge, but we have so much is speculative and lofty, and we have some that’s very practical. And the same goes with the moving our will and our passion. So I won’t go into all of the details about that, but let’s just say each of those has its place, and you can read about it in the [inaudible 00:07:43]. Saint Thomas, it’s all there. And some better treatment of it.

The new catechism that is not so new anymore, but the catechism of John Paul II list them doesn’t go into this particular scholastic division. But let’s just say that the way we can explain it very simply, and this you can grab right away, is that the principle form, in fact, the only form ultimately of Christian moral life is charity. It’s the love of God.

CK:
That’s it.

FHB:
Yes, that’s it. Now, so we have those theological virtues so-called of faith, hope and charity. Faith and hope we can have even when we don’t have charity because we have fallen away from sin, being grave sin. We still have faith and we still have hope, but they’re not virtues. They don’t attain our end for us because we don’t love God as we should. That’s why we make an act of perfect contrition and get to confession. So charity is the only virtue that’s really and truly, purely and completely a virtue. You can be as wise and as knowledgeable-

CK:
This sounds like Saint Paul.

FHB:
-and as full of good advice as you want. You can have wisdom, knowledge, counsel. You can have scientific knowledge of things. You can be courageous, you can be prudent and you can control your bodily passions. And without the love of God, none of those things is a virtue. None of them. Whereas the most miserable derelict on the side of the street who is moved by God’s grace to love God above all things and his neighbors himself. He possessing none of those by habit is given them all at once by God as though he had them. God bestows upon us, the merit of a life, a long life of virtue at the first instant of our life in baptism, our spiritual Christian life in baptism. Even though we never did anything.

The pagans taught virtues are obtained by continued repeated effort. And that’s how you obtain a virtue. Well, that’s true for us. And this may sound strange in the abstract, because God never created a person that He intended to bring to eternal life whose virtue He was going to accept based upon their continued efforts. It never happened.

CK:
So explain that to me. That’s very-

FHB:
God rather created all human beings to receive the abundance of His grace through charity. So they might live according to those virtues, which are confirmable to human nature.

CK:
I see.

FHB:
And so we can see the working of the life of virtue, like being given to each what is due, justice, moderating our central passions in temperance. And that also includes social central passions, like our worries about other people’s opinion and that sort of thing. Or our dealing with things that cause fear or discouragement in courage your fortitude. All those things are given to us by God through the infusion of the grace of divine charity.

And then once we have divine charity motivated by the love of God, we can begin to see how we can build up our resistance to these things, which conflict with our true spiritual and happiness and good. Is unbelief, despair, hatred, and uncharity, intemperance, lust, all the things. The seven deadly sins, in a nutshell.

But it’s all originally a complete and free gift. No one is a Saint who did it by himself. Impossible. And the amount of share that we get in the life of God has to do solely with His giving. We cooperate with grace, yes. But that’s a very slippery turn. It doesn’t mean that if we don’t cooperate, he’s not going to give us His grace. We can have a-

CK:
That’s a very subtle but-

FHB:
We can have a reasonable fear that we can’t presume on Him and refuse to cooperate and say, he’s going to give you his grace anyway. That’s just ingratitude and lack of common sense. But the fact is when he gives us the grace, whether we’ve been trying to prepare ourselves or like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, where completely in an opposite frame of mind, God just reaches down and gives us His mercy.

And the gifts of the Holy Spirit indicate that because they are higher than the four Cardinal virtues,. And they’re even higher than faith and hope when there is no charity. So the only thing higher than the gifts of the spirit is charity itself. If you’re used to reading books of spiritual theology. And so you go, “Well, they’re the four Cardinal virtues that are kind of like a natural virtues. Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.” And you work on those. And if you work on those with your effort and everything, eventually then God might have mercy on you and give you the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity. Most especially charity, because that’s the only one you can have in order to be saved.

And then if you practice in charity long enough, according to the measure of your human reason, then you will finally be given the abundance of God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit. In which God will work in you and not so much you working on your own. And so it’s all an evolutionary from the bottom up view. But in point of fact, Saint Thomas teaches that the grace of God is infused through charity through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, down to the lower modalities of human action when we have to apply effort. We should be happy to know that God does not value effort above all things.

CK:
I’m very happy to know that.

FHB:
Effort and cooperation are at the low end of the totem pole for our moral life as Christians. They’re important.

CK:
What’s that the top? Receptivity or trust?

FHB:
The top is … Right. The fact that God moves our soul and bestows and pours out, as we would say, infused. He pours it in. A receptacle receiving a liquid that’s poured in just receives it. And that’s what we do primarily and most efficaciously. And we have to get out of our little minds that somehow it’s more effective to make an effort than it is to receive. Because our Lord-

CK:
Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. Yes.

FHB:
The problem is that it all sounds great. You teach your kids, come on, you got to do the work. Got to make effort. You got to do this. Well, of course, in practical human things, you have to apply a lot of effort, but that is not the standard of charity. And it’s not the standard whereby we establish our relationship with God. If we’re content with a pagan morality, whereby human accomplishment is all that matters. Then of course, effort is going to be everything. If we understand Christian morality, we understand that the effort that we give is a fruit or a flower of the working of God in our soul, who makes it able that we finally are able to accomplish easily and a way beyond our understanding things that we never been able to do before. We say things. We do things. We believe things. We hope in things that are not within our own power. That’s why the gifts though, are so very important.

Another important aspect … But keep in mind, whatever interjection you want to make because I’m just going on and on. Another really important aspect of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is this. That if you want to be prudent, just, temperent and courageous. After the Aristotelian model, which is that, that’s where that comes from. It’s also from the Book of Wisdom. Thank God. That’s listed in the Book a Wisdom, which has a different take from Aristotle, but lists those virtues. Then that’s going to be your own perfection that you obtained by repeated effort. And you’re going to have your own perfection in your own world. Which is fine. You’ve done it.

CK:
It’s better than not having it.

FHB:
Yeah. One supposes, but let’s watch somebody try, really. Because what kind of person is someone who practices virtue. Like for example, the virtue of friendship. Only because it’s going to improve him morally. Do you really want your friends to be your friends only because they feel that by dealing with you, they’re getting better morally?

CK:
No.

FHB:
No, there’s something more of heaven, more of our happiness beyond more of our basic human needs in friendship than just the idea that this person is just a [inaudible 00:16:21] that I’m going to be sharpening my beak on.

CK:
Thanks for perfecting me.

FHB:
Thanks for perfecting me.

CK:
That’s what you mean to me.

FHB:
Now you be discarded. As the old expression, cold is charity. I love you because you’re useful, good to me. Yes. Well, that’s fine. And we understand what that might mean, but the fact is that that’s not the way God saves us. And He saves us rather not by the individual acquisition of these merits and perfections, which are perfect for a landholding wealthy Greek philosopher. But rather He saves us by entering into a relationship with us, which is not simply the autonomous moral life. But you what we call-

CK:
He’s not just an instructor.

FHB:
Is an I vow relationship. The gifts of the Holy Spirit imply a loving relationship with God, which is the source of our ability to judge beyond what we be able to judge regarding the mysteries of faith. To understand what we would not be able to understand about practical matters. To give advice beyond what we would normally be able to do according to our mere reason. To fear God because … The reasons why I want to fear Him, because we fear rather ourselves and our own human weakness, but not Him. Basically the fear of God is that I don’t fear Him so much as I fear me. And that’s the inspiration to receive from Him that impulse. To have a courage, which goes beyond simply the human responsibility and consistency and action. Way beyond the courage of any kind of soldier. But rather, although that is also very noble, but rather is regarding a confrontation of evils. Which are really in truly contrary to charity in the fullest sense of the term.

For example, if you’re at war and say there are two men fighting each other and they’re shooting at each other. One of them is from Bavaria and he’s a Catholic guy, Germany. And the other one is from France. And he’s a Catholic guy from Provence. And they’re both shooting each other. And they’re both living in the love of God. Well, this is not what courage is all about. There’s a higher courage, which is to maintain the love of God. And that’s why both of the soldiers recognize that they would bury the other, pray for the other, take care of the other. And that they, in the meantime, as Christians in this veil of tears, have to deal with the ambiguous and unreasonable demands of human history. If you get my drift. I mean, it’s a little poetic, but [crosstalk 00:18:53]

CK:
No, I think I do get your drift. So the primary thing about the gifts of the Holy Spirit then is that God wills us to share in His love.

FHB:
His love, which is the standard of judgment and understanding and action. Right.

CK:
Okay. So, but part of that sharing in His love is that He imparts these qualities to us that are actually His qualities. Am I getting this?

FHB:
Yes. Well, ultimately His qualities as God made man, because some of them don’t regard-

CK:
Don’t regard-

FHB:
-what a God would have to deal with.

CK:
Yeah. Right. I see. Yeah.

FHB:
But, certainly they involve with the God man’s moral life to be sure.

CK:
Okay. So I guess you’re … I mean, we look at this from the top down or the bottom up perspective. And the top down is really God is doing all of this.

FHB:
Pouring out His love into us.

CK:
Pouring it out. And so the primary question becomes not how do I achieve these things, but how do I receive these things?

FHB:
By receiving the sacraments.

CK:
And that’s it. That’s the answer.

FHB:
That’s the answer. Now of course, that means the sacraments in an attitude of faith and love and all of that. But the fact is the sacraments are what give us these things.

CK:
Do you know? I-

FHB:
And then without the sacraments, the desire for them and the openness to God, He can give His gifts however he wants.

CK:
But I have to say, I think there are some very good Catholics in the sense of receiving the sacraments, of participating in the sacramental life, who don’t actually believe in the sacraments in the sense that you just described. They don’t actually believe that God accomplishes His will through the sacraments. They go, “Well He helps me, but it’s still basically up to me.” Do you see what I’m saying?

FHB:
What I remind people is very, very simple. When you’re at mass and hopefully you will be soon.

CK:
Right. Yes.

FHB:
If our keepers allow us to do that. If we get to mass soon, you’ll hear the priest would say, “Behold, the [inaudible 00:21:05] of God, behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world.” Now, of course, that means he’s taking away your sins. So whatever you think is in the way, if you are truly repentant and well disposed, he’s talking about that. And then you say, “Oh Lord, I’m not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul be healed.” It’s right there.

He’s going to say the word and your soul is going to be healed. When you go to communion, it’s not just that you met a moral requirement. And now you can say, “I made my Holy communion at Sunday mass.” But He is going to heal your soul. And if you don’t believe it, He’s just going to wait till you find out. Because you’re going to think, “Oh, I lived for years and thought that I was spiritually sick, but I wasn’t. He had already healed me.” But I’m like the guy next to the pool in Jerusalem, who said, “Well, I’ve been here 30 years, but I can’t get in because the people get there before me.” Our Lord says, that’s the one guy He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

CK:
Right. Everybody else asked him, right. [crosstalk 00:22:02] 39 years, do you want it?

FHB:
Do you really believe this? Well, I mean, we say this word over and over again. Only say the word and my soul should be healed. Is that what we expect? Because that’s what we’re getting. That’s what we’re receiving. You can take a medicine and not believe that it works, but it still works. Even though people can take medicines that don’t work and they can believe it works. And even then they claim it might work. But that’s a different question.

CK:
What are you going to say then to the person who listens to this and says, “Father is saying that the reception of charity through the sacraments is actually more important than me working on being moral improvement.”

FHB:
It’s more important. I’m just telling you that. It’s more important.

CK:
You’re right. You would say to that person, “You are correct.”

FHB:
You got me right. But the point there is that one has to consider there’s intensive reality and there’s extensive reality. That is the sacraments intensively are much more important than your efforts. But extensively in terms of what takes up your hours and your mental energy, that may have a lot more to do with your efforts are extensively more burdening and more what they are right than the reception of the sacraments.

But one saves you intensively, instantaneously and very, very powerfully. And the other is the effect hopefully of that sacramental life and your soul where you realize, well, that means I need to apply this to my life as I move along by being patient. By setting aside anxious thoughts, by being very careful about the judgments we make about other people, very important. By resisting temptation and resisting it from the beginning, especially when it has to do with purity. Nowadays with the internet and all this other nonsense and people being at home and not have anything else to do all day.

CK:
This would what we call avoiding the near occasion.

FHB:
Right. Avoiding the near occasion. But that sounds so prissy.

CK:
It does, doesn’t it? Yeah.

FHB:
Let’s just say just not-

CK:
Just start with-

FHB:
Just when you feel tempted, then that’s when you resist. Don’t wait a little while to see if you can [inaudible 00:24:12] And then suddenly, you’re on a slippery slope and you kind of feel like you’ve reached a point of no return. And then boom, you’ve done it. Whatever it is. And that’s how you clicked on the computer or you did whatever. That’s what the devil is looking for. He’s working for that moment of discouragement where you just say … And we don’t even feel like it’s discouragement because it doesn’t seem like … It seems like an opportunity to the sinful soul. But it’s discouragement, and-

CK:
But it’s like the person hanging on the rope. Let’s go.

FHB:
-that’s the moment when we go, okay, I’m going to do it. And that’s what we have to fight against. So that’s the effort involved, but it’s not much effort if we look to the crucifix and the examples of the saints.

CK:
The thing is, if I take to heart what you are saying right now, then-

FHB:
Please do.

CK:
-what will happen to me is I will be disposed to complete trust in the sacraments. Like no matter what, they will save me.

FHB:
Yeah, absolutely.

CK:
Really?

FHB:
Because it’s trust in Jesus. The sacraments are actions of Jesus. It’s this instrument-

CK:
And you’re saying he can do it?

FHB:
He can do it. Absolutely. Without a doubt.

CK:
All right. So can I-

FHB:
I mean, it goes so far that [inaudible 00:25:34] offers an opinion without criticizing it. And now listen carefully. Don’t say that I said you can do this. But it shows it very clearly that if there were a case where a dying person in the state of grave sin had no access to a priest to absolve him. And no access to a priest to anoint him, which would indirectly remit his sin. Because he was being given communion in emergency by deacon. Back then deacons were extraordinary ministers. Anyway, just to let you know how things have changed. But anyway, but say he’s in a situation where he’s dying. A deacon’s given a communion. He can’t go to confession. And he maybe has imperfect contrition.

So what’s he supposed to do? [inaudible 00:26:16] says he is obliged to receive Holy communion because it’s the only sacrament left to him. And even though normally we understand you would never, ever do that because you have the other sacraments to receive first. But it’s because it’s the work of Christ. It’s like, that’s the access. The merits of Christ’s passion have to be applied to us individually. However, we find them and he’s given us the seven sacraments for all those different circumstances of life. But [inaudible 00:26:41] shows that in the extreme, which of course nowadays might not be very extreme at all.

CK:
No, it might not.

FHB:
You might get someone in one of these hospitals where they’ve never seen a priest for months. And then some extraordinary minister shows up and they want to go to confession, but they can’t. And it may be the last communion they make before they die. And they were trained not to do that. And so you say, “Well, no, that’s true. You were trained not to do that, but these are extraordinary circumstances. And what you really need is a sacrament, any sacrament to establish contact of your soul with Christ. And that will save you.”

And that’s very different from a liberal view that you can just throw, just [crosstalk 00:27:17] sacraments as if they were nothing. It’s the fact that we believe in the power of Christ’s sacred humanity to transmit to us the graces of eternal life.

CK:
So I have already received all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What I got to do now is trust-

FHB:
Since you were a boy-by.

CK:
What?

FHB:
Since you were a boy-by.

CK:
Yeah. Right. A boy-by. Yeah, right. I love talking with you, Father.

FHB:
What have you got to show for it, though? That’s what I’m asking.

CK:
That’s a very American question. Isn’t it?

FHB:
No, it is not. The question God is … I was trying to do it by way of contrast with my message.

CK:
Yeah. But here’s the deal though. I want to accept what you had to say, but it seems like awfully good news.

FHB:
Too good to be true.

CK:
It does, it seems too good to be true. But it’s true.

FHB:
Our Lord will make sure that that’s a constant theme in your life. Because He will give you sufferings galore, and also-

CK:
To save me from [crosstalk 00:28:05].

FHB:
-and then consolations which make you slightly a suspect. And all that so that you can serve Him in faith, walking in the [inaudible 00:28:12].

CK:
You know something-

FHB:
It’s your world.

CK:
-as we record this, it’s the feast of Saint Philip Mary. And probably as much as anyone in the whole history of the church, I’m sure he believed every word of what you just said.

FHB:
Yeah, well, he was the model of that in his own time.

CK:
He was just joyful in the good news that the Lord-

FHB:
Yeah. He was the saint who recommended get to confession, go to communion. No matter how bad your habits are, just go.

CK:
Just go.

FHB:
Get there. And it will all be okay. He was not severe at all.

CK:
Well, praise God. Father, thank you so much.

FHB:
God bless you. He also loved our Lady very much. And he said, “If our Lady’s not helping me, then what else she could be doing?” So just keep that in mind and put your trust in her. She’s got nothing better to do than take care of you.

CK:
That’s right. Right. And He put His trust in her constantly. Okay. So now we can commend Saint Philip Mary to you. If you don’t know about him, well, you should know about Saint Phillip Mary. Just not should in a judgemental way. It’s just a wonderful thing to know Saint Philip Mary. And he turned down the Jesuits and … I shouldn’t have ended on that. Should I?

FHB:
You’re tempting me, I’m not going to say anything.

CK:
Well, well, Ignatius of Loyola, every bit as much a great Saint. Father Hugh Barbour, again, thank you very, very much.

FHB:
You’re very welcome and God bless you.

CK:
And thank you to everybody who joins us, despite the fact that I’m joking around in the way that I shouldn’t here at the end. We do love it when you join us here on Catholic Answers Focus. And we’re very grateful when you share it with other people. Let them know they can find out about this podcast by going to CatholicAnswersFocus.com. And if you would, wherever you get to rate wherever you get your podcasts, just give us the five stars and maybe a comment. And that will help us grow this podcast.

I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Thank you very much. We’ll see you next time God willing right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

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