The Sacrament of Confirmation is a sacrament of anointing by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity; he is the comforter and helper that Jesus promised to send his Apostles, who came to them on the day of Pentecost.
The sacrament of Confirmation is the bestowal of Pentecost into the soul of every baptized Christian, and it is final sacrament of initiation into the Catholic Church. The bishop or priest prays for those being confirmed to receive the Holy Spirit and his Seven Gifts.
What are the "Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit" and what do they mean?
During the Rite of Confirmation the bishop or priest who administers the sacrament lays their hands upon those who are to be confirmed and says:
“All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
This rite marks each person with a spiritual seal. The Seven Gifts that are bestowed “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them" (CCC 1831). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost."
Why are there seven? The answer is that God has revealed this about the nature of the Holy Spirit in Sacred Scripture: "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2-3)."
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit Explained
The Gift of Wisdom is our ability to value spiritual things over worldly ones. It enables us to desire the things of God and correctly order the things in our life. This gift helps us view the world through God’s perspective and the light of our faith. It instills a desire to contemplate the things of God.
The Gift of Understanding helps us grasp the truths of the faith more easily and profoundly. Our human intellect cannot grasp all of God’s mysteries, but through the gift of understanding we can be lead to truth, even when we do not fully comprehend. This gift strengthens our insight through prayer, scripture, and the sacraments.
The Gift of Right Judgment/Counsel acknowledges the difference between right and wrong and bestows proper judgment. A person with right judgment avoids sin and leads a life for Christ. Counsel inspires us to speak up and encourage others to do the correct thing. It bestows upon us prudence, allowing us to act promptly and rightly in the face of difficult situations.
The Gift of Courage/Fortitude sustains our decision to follow the will of God in any situation. It allows us to stand up and defend our faith, even when threatened by bodily injury or death. This gift allows us to be steadfast in our decisions to do well and to endure evil even when we do not want to.
The Gift of Knowledge is awareness of God’s plan. It is not simply an accumulation of facts, but rather an understanding of God’s purpose and how we ought to respond. Knowledge helps bring to light the temptations that we face, and to discern whether to give in or live a life worthy of God’s approval.
The Gift of Piety or reverence is our obedience to God and our willingness to serve him. It is not just obedience through a sense of duty or obligation, but rather obedience out of love and devotion. It facilitates a deeper respect and honor for God and His Church.
The Gift of Wonder and Awe/Fear of the Lord makes us aware of the glory and majesty of God. This gift is also synonymous with the "Fear of the Lord", in which we dread sin and fear offending God. We fear displeasing God and losing our connection with him because of our love for Him. Wonder and awe increases our desire to draw closer to God and depart from sin.
This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2014. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.