Sr. Louise Zdunich

June 13, 2011


What is the difference between the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit?




We find the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11.1-3 as attributes of the future Messiah: "A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his root. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him."

These gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord.

Catholics believe that these gifts are received at Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation. We are then "enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit . . . to be true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285).




Wisdom enables us to recognize and rejoice in God working in our lives, in others and in the world. It allows us to see situations through God's eyes and find a deeper meaning in historical events, in the ups and downs of our lives.

Understanding enlightens our reason so that we can grasp life in the light of God and eternity. A person with this gift knows how to live as a follower of Christ and is not confused by the conflicting messages of our culture.

Counsel or Right Judgment helps us recognize the difference between right and wrong, choosing what is right, make decisions and help others make decisions for Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.




The gift of Piety or Reverence gives us a deep reverence for and a total reliance on God in trust, humility and love, leading to respect for others.

Fortitude or Courage gives us strength to overcome our fears and take risks for Christ. It strengthens us to accept difficulties and suffering, to do good and reject evil, to stand up for what is right, even in the face of rejection or death. The early Christian martyrs had this gift in abundance.

The gift of Knowledge leads us to a deeper understanding of God and to judge events in view of God and eternity. It enables us to see the shallowness of our lives when we forget God.

Fear of the Lord

Fear of the Lord is often the most misunderstood. This is not being afraid of God but is an awareness of the glory and majesty of God, so often expressed by Old Testament texts. It is wonder and awe that a God who is the Infinite and all-powerful Creator, who is perfect knowledge, power, love and goodness is willing to come to us: finite, weak sinners. The depersonalization experienced today is the opposite of reverence.


When we receive a gift, it is expected to be useful in some practical way or to give us pleasure. Such are God's gifts, special graces which are practical, enabling us to follow Christ and to lead holy lives. They enable us to follow divine inspiration. "They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them" (Catechism, 1831).

To have their effects, these gifts must be developed and used. We must cooperate with these graces God bestows upon us though the Holy Spirit's gifts.

We can best understand what the Holy Spirit can do for us by reading the Acts of the Apostles and see the Pentecost transformation of the frightened, cowering disciples.

The Holy Spirit fired them up to work unceasingly as fearless, knowledgeable workers in Christ's vineyard. No wonder the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire.

What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit which we read about in Paul's letter to the Galatians (5.22-23)? The tradition of the Church lists 12: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. Their names express their meaning and they are evident in those who live them.

Normally, fruits are the result of a period of growth and development.

They are the end product of our labour. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are similarly the result of a life lived for God with the strength of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The fruits manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit. Those who live them experience happiness and others sense God's presence in them.

The Catechism (1832) says, "The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory."

In other words, when we fully live the gifts of the Holy Spirit leading lives for Christ, the fruits of the Spirit are the result.

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