by Jeanne Heiberg
Our human minds are wonderful but limited; experts tell us that most of us hold in our consciousness only a few thoughts at a time. I learned to be a good speaker from listening to other good speakers: to carefully line up ideas so that one idea leads into another, and not to give too many ideas at once. It’s also good to repeat ideas in different ways, with different examples, to make an impact on the conscious awareness of students.
A single thought or idea doesn’t stay in the conscious mind very long. So where do thoughts and ideas go when they leave? Some may get lost, forgotten—permanently. But those ideas that make a dent in our students’ awareness (our goal as catechists) go into memory banks, the unconscious. If those ideas are not called back often, they settle into the deep unconscious mind where they can stay for years.
Sometimes a new thought, face, object, sound, or experience will call those ideas back. But there is one Gift we can always count on to call them back when we really need them—the Gift of the Holy Spirit that descended on the Church at Pentecost.
A Trinity of Giving
Jesus was filled with God’s Holy Spirit. With his sacrifice on the cross and his Resurrection, Jesus paves the way for us to return to the heavenly Father who created us. He invites us into the very unity and harmony of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is not just a unity like living side by side or in the same house or belonging to the same club or being on the same team. In the Trinity, there is a unity in the outpouring of love and life.
When we accept the Gift of the Holy Spirit, we become part of this wonderful unity. We are filled with God’s Holy Spirit because, at the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the Church and filled it with the Gifts of knowledge, understanding, counsel, courage, piety, wonder and awe, and wisdom. These are the Gifts that help us learn about our Catholic faith as well as retain and live what we learn. All our learning and life experiences can be used by the Holy Spirit to help us grow and become joy-filled and faith-filled people. On Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit and all the Gifts of the Spirit.
Say to the Children
Do you like to receive gifts? Is it exciting to have one handed to you all wrapped up in colorful paper and ribbon so you can only see the outside but not the inside? Do you wonder what is inside? Do you sit and wonder for a while before you open the gift, enjoying the anticipation…or do you tear off the wrappings and open it as fast as you can?
Gifts in wrappings and ribbons that you can see are not the only kinds you receive or give. Think about compliments, hugs, helping hands, warm thank-yous, shared snacks, and playing games and working on projects with others. What about the friendship and/or love that prompted someone to give you a gift or that inspired you to help or give a gift to someone you care about?
Sometimes the best gifts we receive are so ordinary that we don’t even notice them as gifts: a good nutritious meal, a friend listening to us tell about an exciting time we had, laughter shared with those we love.
It’s a little like that with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we hardly noticed the Gifts coming our way because we are so used to them and because they often come to us through the people around us every day. Yet, the Spirit comes with countless Gifts, more than we can name, be aware of, or hold in our limited, finite minds.
The Church has traditionally named seven special Gifts of the Holy Spirit—all important, all that we can look for, ask for, and open ourselves to receive.
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Knowledge: This Gift enables you to use the wonderful mind God gave you to study, read, and gather information and facts and use them to make informed decisions and choices. You will quickly reach out to help others and you will have more success in life as you use this Gift if you include faith facts and knowledge in your studies. Scripture, Tradition, history, and stories of saints can help you understand our Catholic faith and remember that God must always come first. Knowledgeable people are respected and have much to give. Find people of knowledge and learn from them. Search out their writings and their examples. (See Psalm 119:66; Proverbs 1:7; 2:10-11; 19:27.)
Understanding: This Gift calls on your heart as well as your mind to search out God’s truth and revelations in Scripture. It opens you to the feelings and needs of others, helps you to be inspired by the lives of saints and other good people, and lets you see how God is working in your own life, even through difficulties and challenges. Understanding provides insight into the mysteries and truths of faith. In a culture full of messages far from God’s ways, understanding helps you to know the right thing to do and the way to do it. This Gift enables you to relate well to God and others, and to live as a person of faith. (See Proverbs 9:10 and 24:3-5; Job 28:28.)
Counsel: This Gift, sometimes called right judgment, enables you to tell right from wrong, avoid sin and other costly mistakes, and live according to the teachings of Jesus. It opens you to the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of others. It helps you interact with others as you plan, solve problems, and make decisions. As a young person with good counsel, you will look for and find good people to inspire and guide you to know the right thing to do in different, sometimes difficult, situations. It’s good to make quiet time for God to ask for guidance and to listen to what God says. It also is good to consult with wise people of faith. (See Sirach 32:16; Proverbs 15:22.)
Courage: This Gift, sometimes called fortitude, enables you to follow your convictions and stand up for what is right no matter how difficult it may be. Sometimes a person of faith must go against the tide, take an unpopular stance, and endure rejection and abuse to speak out for what is right. Fearlessness was seen at the first Pentecost, when Jesus’ disciples dared to speak out boldly about him. They were convinced that people would receive the benefit and joy of hearing the Good News and transforming their lives. Today, the Spirit wants to help you be brave, strong, and persistent in faith and love. (See Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 27:1-3; Philippians 1:12-14; Acts 4:31.)
Piety: This Gift, sometimes called reverence, helps you respect and honor God and the things of God: Scripture, the Church, the Eucharist and all the Sacraments, and Tradition. It also helps you to honor God’s creation, to treat it responsibly, and to help sustain its beauty and availability to the needs of all. Piety helps you to be a gentle and humble person. It inspires you to honor God as the source of all that is good, of all that you are, and of everything you have. As a result, you rely on God and grow in trust. Piety calls you to prayer, worship, and communion, as you learn of God’s perfect love for you and all creation. (See Psalm 104:33-34 and 119:2, 15; Acts 2:43-47.)
Wonder and Awe: This Gift, also called fear of the Lord, helps you to be amazed by God and his awesome creation. God is love, and perfect love casts out fear. So the only thing to fear is separation from God’s goodness through ignorance, sin, self-will, and disobedience. With wonder and awe, you understand yourself to be a created, finite (and wonderful) being in right relationship with the all-powerful Creator on whom you totally depend. When you realize that God listens to you, loves you, and helps you to realize your dreams, what response can there be but wonder and awe? (See Psalm 8; Isaiah 40:28-31; Sirach 32:13; 43:29-35.)
Wisdom: This Gift helps you to give first place to spiritual realities. Wisdom comes through praying, studying Scripture, and developing a personal relationship with God. Wisdom, considered the highest of all the Gifts, ties the others together. The Gift of Wisdom comes to fullness over time as faithful people open themselves to the Holy Spirit and work to grow in all the Gifts. (See Wisdom 7:7-12; Sirach 1:1, 23 and 14:20-27; Proverbs 4:5-9; James 3:16-18.)
The craft below shows how to make Gifts of the Holy Spirit (and a mobile, if you like) to help your students remember the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. You will need the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (or the mobile) for the prayer below the craft.
ACTIVITY: Gifts of the Holy Spirit Craft
* white card stock
* pencils, silver markers
* thin silver cord or thread
* needle or hole punch
* hanging supplies (6 sticks measuring 28” long or smaller, if preferred; or a beautiful branch; or two ¼” dowels)
1. Place a dove pattern on card stock. Trace around it lightly with a pencil and cut it out. (Make one dove for each child.)
2. Using a silver marker, write one Gift of the Holy Spirit on one side and your name on the other. Add more decorations if desired. (Be sure that every Gift of the Holy Spirit is represented in the final collection of doves.)
3. Thread a needle with thin silver cord and pass it through top of upper wing of a dove—or punch a hole in the wing and thread cord through to tie for hanging. (Do this with each dove.)
4. Arrange Gifts of the Holy Spirit as desired:
In a Trinity mobile frame: Tie together the ends of three sticks to form a triangular base. Tie a stick to each corner of the base and bring all three together at the “top” and tie together. Hang Gifts of the Holy Spirit along the sticks forming the sides.
Along a branch: Hang the Gifts of the Holy Spirit along a single branch. Add variety by using different lengths of hanging cord.
No arrangement: Have students hold the Gifts of the Holy Spirit during the start of the prayer, and then hang them around your learning environment of place them in a basket after the reading or listing of the Gifts.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit Prayer
Have ready a dish of holy water and a sprinkling sprig. Review the Scripture references in “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit” and bookmark in a Bible at least one reading for each Gift. Place the mobile on your prayer table and have children gather around the table. If you did not make a mobile, have each child hold a Gift of the Holy Spirit, and have on hand a basket for the Gifts.
Opening Song: “Send Out Your Spirit.” Tim Schoenbachler, based on Psalm 104; refrain ©1969, ICEL; Singing the Psalms, Vol. 2, published by OCP.
Opening Prayer: Lord, we celebrate Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your Church. Help us to be open to all the Gifts that you have for us, and to put things of the Spirit first. Help us to ask for the Gifts we need to give you honor and glory, and for the highest good of your people.
Commentary: Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he breathed on his disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. That was just a little breath but like air, it meant life, because we can’t live without breathing air. After Jesus ascended to his Father in heaven, the Holy Spirit arrived with terrific power and fullness. A mighty wind blew through the upper room where the disciples and Mary were praying. Tongues of fire, a sign of God’s presence, hung over the heads of those present. Since then, the world has been transformed slowly by the power of the Holy Spirit through people who were and are open to receiving the Spirit’s Gifts for themselves, their families, their communities, and the world. Jesus knew that his leaving this earth bodily would be a great loss for his disciples, but the Gifts of the Holy Spirit would bring his presence and power to everyone everywhere for all time. Which Gifts of the Holy Spirit would you especially like to pray for in the coming days?
Readings: (Selected from the section titled “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” If the children are holding the doves, have each one come forward as the Scripture mentions the Gift that he or she is holding to place the Gift in a basket on the prayer table.)
Blessing of the Gifts: Lord, bless these doves that symbolize the Gifts of your Holy Spirit. (Sprinkle mobile/doves with holy water.) Bless us, Lord. (Sprinkle those present with holy water.) May we be open to receive these Gifts that will help us live holy and loving lives close to you in the shared love of the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—in whom we pray.
Closing Song: “The Spirit is A-Movin’.” Text and music, Carey Landry ©1969, 1979. Found in Braking Bread/Music Issue, published by OCP.
Jeanne Heiberg is the author of Advent Arts and Christmas Crafts (Paulist Press) and Advent calendars (Creative Communications). She is an artist, and has taught art, writing, creative catechetics, and meditation. She has taught all ages, from Pre-K through college and adult education, and has directed parish catechetical programs.
Copyright 2013, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.
This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, July 2013.
Image Credit: Forest man72/Shutter Stock 659090347