Heroes in our midst
“With His Grace, the Holy Spirit makes the soul virtuous; with the Gifts, He makes it heroic.” (Don Dolindo Ruotolo)
Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo, a contemporary of Padre Pio, wrote prolifically to teach about the Holy Spirit. As the crux of the spiritual life for which all baptized Christians are made, his teachings on the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit are particularly helpful: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety & Fear of the Lord . When we exercise virtues, we work of our own initiative. However, in these 7 gifts, God works through us “sending us illustrations and inspirations which work in us without our deliberation, requiring however, our full and willing consent.” It is Grace in action, exactly what we need to change our life world today.
Differing from our natural talents, strengths and affinities, the Gifts render the soul docile to Grace so as to function ‘in a holy way on a higher plane’ in our everyday life because, rather than it being our natural inclination, our actions are driven by the Holy Spirit. Each gift illuminates the Divine for the soul, but is limited to the willingness of the soul to live out the virtues. This preparation, how one lives their life, must come first. Until then, the Gifts of the baptized, confirmed Christian are inactive. What a waste of Grace! Just think if all confirmed Catholics chose one small way every day of acting with prudence and humility: the 7 Gifts asleep in their soul would begin to awake, rustle, and impact our world. It all starts with us; never underestimate the power of 1 heroic soul–yours! 😊
The Gift of Understanding perfects the virtue of Faith. It reveals to us the hidden meaning of scripture like Jesus did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It provides a ‘penetrating intuition’ that illuminates meaning of all the truths in just a moment, but that moment has a profound, deep effect upon us. The mystery remains a mystery, but our need to figure it out (centered in ourselves) melts away as the soul’s eyes are fixated on God instead. The question is, if this is dormant in my soul, what can I do to wake it up?
“Cultivation of the gift of Understanding also requires meditation on these mysteries as a preparation for a more vital grasp of the mysteries of Faith. The soul cannot insist on remaining inactive or worse, be distracted by or dissipated in earthly affairs, and still benefit from the gift of the Holy Spirit. The soul must apply itself to meditating on the mysteries…this meditation must be conducted in profound humility, more with the heart than with the mind, more by living the mysteries of the Faith than in presuming to examine them critically.”
Thus we can’t just live our life the same way, day in, day out, and expect change (isn’t that the definition of insanity?) We must be active. The preparation for receiving the Gift is to live in a state of simplicity and humility, pruning ourselves of ‘earthly affairs”: things (materialism), opinions (cable TV), instant gratification for knowledge (Internet), gratification of the senses (media, food/drink). St. Ignatius teachings on gaining indifference give us the method to shed these [i]. We begin to see the connection between our prayer and our examen. As we live this preparation, we can dispose ourselves in meditation.
“When Jesus Christ wished to send the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, He made them gather in prayer in the Cenacle together with Mary Most Holy, full of grace, so that they might prepare, and receive assistance from the Immaculate Virgin, for the great gift which would transform them into new creatures.”
The first step to pray, then is to invite Mary’s aid, Mother of Divine Grace, Virgin most Faithful.
“A soul who does not meditate does not active the gift of Understanding within itself; just as someone who does not study neither exercises nor actives his own intelligence and is unable to enter in depth into the books lying open on a desk, which he perhaps may read although distractedly at best.”
St. Ignatius helps us with wise teachings on how to pray, such as lingering on each word of the scripture, or praying it slowly breathing in a rhythm[ii]. And our solemnity Corpus Christi [iii] provides the perfect mystery with which to start. As the original church begun by Jesus Christ in AD 33 (this used to be the legal definition of Roman Catholic!), it is this true and full understanding of the Body and Blood of Christ that renders us different—the Catholic church is the keeper of the deposit of Faith for the world. The meditations of Fr. Liborio Siniscalchi[iv] can be very helpful to praying this mystery.
The final step is to pray daily for the illumination of the Gift of Understanding:
Come, O Holy Spirit, strengthen my impoverished understanding with thy light; make me grasp the truths of Faith and live them. Come, that my soul, inebriated by light, might enjoy control of my body and feel the need to live blessedly in the truth! Come, enlighten me, that I might discover the ugliness of error, the false arguments of heretics, the foolishness of the impious; and so flee the entrapments of a perverse press to destroy my Faith. Come, enlighten me with the light of the saints, that I might live in the knowledge and the love of God: Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
And don’t forget to examen your day for God’s presence in providing opportunities to enact virtue, and your response to that.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
[i] Servant of God Fr. John Hardon SJ on indifference http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Spiritual_Exercises/Spiritual_Exercises_011.htm
[ii] St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, 3 methods of prayer.
[iv] Fr. Liborio Siniscalchi, The Meditations of St. Ignatius, p. 323 meditating on the Eucharist. https://archive.org/details/spiritualexerci00sinigoog