In the Catholic Church, we recognize the validity of most baptisms of protestant congregations. Even though protestants themselves often reject the idea that baptism has an actual effect on the soul, but is merely a “sign” of graces received, we believe that baptism makes us reborn into new life, and that baptism brings with it the infusion of supernatural graces. There are many in the world who remain unbaptized, and so they are lacking in these effects of baptism. Among the effects of baptism are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are listed below.
1. Wisdom – We have wisdom inasmuch we know that we must do the will of God. Doing the will of God leads to virtue, so wisdom is required in order for us to be led into virtue. Those who are unbaptized may have a desire to do the will of God, but baptism helps us to become detached from the world so that we may more easily judge what God’s will is.
“Wisdom means knowledge that is so perfect it directs the will to obey God’s commands. In God wisdom is identified with his Word, a foreshadowing of the revelation of the Trinity.” — Fr. John Hardon
“[...][I]t belongs to the wisdom that is an intellectual virtue to pronounce right judgment about Divine things after reason has made its inquiry, but it belongs to wisdom as a gift of the Holy Ghost to judge aright about them on account of connaturality with them.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
“If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom's] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.” — Wisdom 8:7
2. Understanding – Understanding is “intimate knowledge that penetrates to the essence of that which is known.”
Understanding is offering our assent to what has been revealed to us by God. It can only come to us through wisdom.
3. Counsel — Counsel is “inquiry about the right choice of means to attain a particular end, and the advice given in response.” — Fr. John Hardon
Fr. Hardon also refers to counsel as a “supernatural intuition,” which is to say that it is an intuition that one has that one is doing the will of God.
4. Fortitude – “Firmness of spirit.” This is to have the ability to stand up for what is right. This is not to be confused with rashness. “Standing up for what you believe in” is not the same as fortitude. Being able to stand fast for and hold to, even in a public manner, what is truly the will of God is true fortitude. Some refer to fortitude as courage, but again, it is only true courage if the firmness of spirit is in alignment with God’s true will.
5. Knowledge – “Any act, function, state, or effect of mental activity. Essential to knowledge is that some of reality from outside the mind is re-presented in the mind by what is called an intentional likeness or similarity to the object known. Knowledge, therefore, is assimilation of mind with object. As a result there is an intentional (assimilative) union between knower and known. We become what we know.”
This is important in the area of my favorite topic, identity in Christ. If we believe, for example, that Jesus would say that it is okay for us to tell a lie, then we do not have knowledge of Who Jesus really is. If, based on that false “knowledge,” we seek to become like Jesus, we will seek to become people who say that it is okay to lie. We then become liars, because we become what we know. So it is with anything that is not of Christ. Unless we know the real Jesus, we cannot become what God has intended for us to become.
As noted earlier, knowledge helps us to attain the perfection of wisdom, in that in truly knowing what we ought to do, we develop greater wisdom in doing more and more the true will of God in our lives.
6. Piety – “Honor and reverence given to someone in any way responsible for our existence or well-being. Thus God as our Creator and constant Provider, parents, near relatives, country, tribe, or people.”
In a nutshell, for me, piety occurs when we are transformed from doing things simply because we have the knowledge that we should do them, and doing things because we truly love God. Children may follow the rules of their parents only to avoid punishment. These children lack piety. Children who follow the rules of their parents because they love their parents have piety. This applies also in our relationship with God. It is enough to get to heaven for one to avoid sin and cling to the precepts of God due to fear of hell, but to do the will of God because you love God is piety.
7. Fear of God – Fileal fear is “love that dreads offending the one loved.” Fear of God is the fear of doing anything that might offend God because we love Him so much. It is akin to piety. Whereas piety causes us to do things because we love God, fear of God helps us to avoid things that would offend God, whom we love, because we love Him so much. Fear of God confirms the virtue of hope in us.
When you meet people who do not seem to have all (or any) of these things going for them, it’s important to understand that it may very well be because they are unbaptized. Having said that, even among the baptized there are those who have these gifts but have not used them to grow deeper into their relationship with God. They may even verbally deny them, but all who are baptized are infused with these gifts which give us the capability to deepen our relationship with God, provided that we are willing to do so.
Hat-tip, Scott Richert