According to St. Thomas Aquinas the gifts of the Holy Spirit dispose us to obey divine influence and inspiration, whereas the virtues enable us to carry out the works of this obedience.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit can be compared to the sails of a boat. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, wrote: “Just as the ship, by means of its sails, can be driven by the wind, so our souls, by means of the gifts, have the capacity to be moved and directed by the Holy Spirit.
“If a mariner sets the sails on his boat, he intends to move it not only by rowing, but also by the force of the wind. In like manner, when God infuses the gifts of the Holy Spirit into our souls, He wishes them to advance, not only by an active practice of the virtues, but also by the intervention of the Holy Spirit.”
One catechism points out: “The gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to catch the breath of the Holy Spirit, moving the ship of our soul much faster and farther than we could ever sail it by using the virtues ourselves.”
“For example, we can use the virtue of faith by making an act of faith. But to use this virtue constantly, being aware of God’s presence in us and about us at all times, is more than we can do ourselves unless the Holy Spirit does it in us.”
Just as the teachings in elementary school prepare a student for higher forms of instruction, so the seven gifts prepare the soul for the higher influence of the Holy Spirit.
Father Gabriel reminds us: “(The gifts) are the sails of the soul, but these sails can be let down, weighted by our egoism, our self-love, and attachment to ourselves and to creatures. Charity, on the contrary, frees them from every impediment and turns them toward the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit. The more open and full the sails are, the better they will be able to receive the least impulse of the divine Paraclete.”
The gifts of the Holy Spirit help us to practise virtues. The results of exercising virtues are the beatitudes and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Father Adolphe Tanquerey, author of The Spiritual Life, defined the fruits of the Holy Spirit as “acts of virtue which reach a certain degree of perfection and fill the soul with holy joy.”
Father Francis Fernandez, author of the daily meditations series In Conversation with God, points out that the first three fruits – love (charity), joy, and peace – are signs of the glory of God.
According to Father Fernandez, patience and longanimity are important in the apostolate.
“Longanimity is like patience. It is a stable disposition by which we wait serenely, without complaint or bitterness and for as long as God wishes the deferrals willed or permitted by Him, before we reach the ascetic or apostolic targets which we set ourselves.”
“In the apostolate the patient person always has high targets, to the measure of God’s Will, although the immediate results may seem small, and uses all the human and supernatural means available, with a holy persistence and constancy.”
Kindness brings effectiveness to the apostolate. A spiritual writer taught that “kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning; and these three last have never converted anyone, unless they were kind also.”
Father Fernandez points out that benignity, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, modesty, continence, and chastity are fruits more directly related to our neighbour’s welfare.
We should desire good for others and strive to bring it about. In our dealing with others, gentleness, faithfulness, and temperance are very important.
The last three fruits – modesty, continence, and chastity – are related to the virtue of temperance. Father Fernandez points out that “modesty is attractive because it bespeaks simplicity and inner order.”
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