The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The Gift of Understanding

by Matthew Meehan C.Ss.R.

You received seven gifts of the Holy Spirit the moment you were baptized with water by the Holy Spirit of God. One of those gifts was the Gift of Understanding, so very precious, to understand God and to understand each other.

Understanding is that gift by which we are enabled to recognize the true Catholic Faith and to detect false teaching. Before the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, they did not understand the Divine Mysteries Christ repeated to them, and often interpreted His words materially.

You have a good example of the Gift of Understanding if you read the lives of the Saints, like the Redemptorist saint of Vienna, St. Clement Hofbauer, or St. Teresa of Avila or the Cure of Ars. St. Clement Hofbauer began his studies late and had just enough instruction to be ordained. However, he was even consulted by the Royal Family and officials of the Church because he had the gift of Understanding to an extraordinary degree.

We will never fully understand the Mysteries like the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation, but with all their mystery we can understand them better as a sign of God’s love for us. Like the powerful mysteries of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, the gift of Understanding helps us see more clearly the depths of God’s love.


Understanding helps us understand our life

St. Catherine of Siena, who had the gift of Understanding and saw the need of unity in the Church, persuaded the Pope to return to Rome for everyone’s good. She lived in the 14th century and died at age 33, as Christ did, with the stigmata as a sign of Christ’s passion and death and these words on her lips:

"O eternal God, receive the sacrifice of my life for the Mystical Body of the Holy Church. I have nothing other to give back that you gave to me. Take my heart therefore and press it to the face of the Spouse." A beautiful example of the gift of Understanding she had received from the Holy Spirit in her Baptism.

You and I try daily to study our lives and these days in which we live and pray to the Holy Spirit how to use our gift of Understanding as St. Catherine of Siena used her gift of Understanding. We try to understand our life on earth and we try to understand our vocation in marriage or the religious life, trying to understand the good people we live with.

Like St. Catherine of Siena and our delightful Pope John Paul II, we try to "understand" the Church and fellow-Catholics and how we can heal our differences, so that in spite of our differences we can come together as Christ prayed: "We may truly be one, Father, as you and I are one."

Father Meehan is a well-known preacher, writer and broadcaster residing in Toronto, ON. 1997 The Canadian Messenger of the Sacred Heart. Used by permission.

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