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The Holy Spirit Toolbox
by Page McKean Zyromski
How about challenging your Confirmation class to "open" the gifts of the Holy Spirit and "try them on for size"?
How about challenging your Confirmation class to “open” the gifts of the Holy Spirit and “try them on for size”? After all, no one receives a gift and puts it unwrapped high on a shelf. Yet, this is what most of us do with the traditional seven-fold Gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3.

At Confirmation, we receive seven presents—a whole toolbox full of useful aids to help us lead strong Christian lives—but then we put them in a closet.

To avoid such disregard, prepare a gift box (or toolbox) ahead of time and then unwrap it in front of the class, discussing each gift as you go. If you have a nice clunky toolbox, use it. If not, any box will do.


Make envelopes labeled “Wisdom,” “Understanding,” “Counsel,” “Courage,” “Knowledge,”  “Piety,” and “Fear of the Lord.” In each envelope, place index cards containing descriptive words, names of saints, pictures, and newspaper clippings that illustrate the gift. Expect that some of the envelopes will have similar content because, in the Spirit, exercising one gift strengthens others—the same way exercise of one muscle group affects other muscles in the human body. For example, someone who gives good Counsel is likely to be a person who shows Wisdom and Fear of the Lord as well.

Wrap It Up

Once you’ve assembled the envelopes, wrap them with gift wrap. Wrap Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Counsel together as a packet.

Use bold-colored gift wrap for Courage and something white or silver for Fear of the Lord.   Piety ought to be clad in a plain brown wrapper, such as a piece of a lunch bag or grocery bag.

Then put the Gifts in the box, the first Gift in the box being the last Gift you’ll take out of the box.

Put Fear of the Lord in first. If the toolbox has a lift-out tray, put Fear of the Lord on the bottom.

Then put Piety in the box, and on top of that put the packet of Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Counsel.

Next, on top of all the Gifts (or in the toolbox tray), place Courage.

When all the envelopes are in the box, choose the wrapping paper for the box itself.  Pentecost red, perhaps?

Open It Up

Conduct a discussion with the class as you take the Gifts out of the box, one by one, and offer a brief explanation of each:

Courage: The word for “courage” in the Scriptures is also translated “strength,” “power,” and “fortitude,” but students relate to it readily as courage. This is the Gift we need first, to stand up for what we believe and to exercise the other Gifts.

Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, and Counsel: These Gifts don’t refer to brain power so much as to the “I see” that comes from the heart. These four Gifts often work together to serve others. (For distinctions, refer to Jeanne Heiberg’s article in the April/May 2009 issue of CATECHIST titled “Gifts of the Spirit,” found at, Support for Catechists, Article Archive and search KEYWORDS giver of gifts and AUTHOR Jeanne Heiberg.)

Piety: This Gift is a down-to-earth attitude, in the best sense of being human and being responsible. It is the opposite of “holier-than-thou.” It is best exercised when it does not call attention to itself. Piety knows its place, is respectful to everyone, and is a workhorse every day of our lives. (Piety needs a fuller explanation because the word has acquired a wimpy aura and no other term has emerged to take its place. One teacher defined it as “being good to everybody, from God on down.” Originally, “Piety” meant being in right relationship with all—including God, family, those in proper authority, those who are poor, and the earth itself. It’s a beautiful concept. Maybe this generation will develop a much-needed word for us.)

Fear of the Lord: This is the Gift that underlies all the others. Fear of the Lord is not dread but rather the awe and reverence that come from knowing that God is God and we are not.

Happy class discussion!  

Page McKean Zyromski, a catechist for 45 years, has been a contributor to CATECHIST since 1983. She lives in Painesville, OH. You may contact her at

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