May 26, 2023

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

God doesn’t ration the gifts of the Spirit in family life

Sean GallagherPhilip, my fourth son, will receive the sacrament of confirmation in a few days. My wife Cindy and I are both happy for and proud of him taking this important step in embracing his faith.

It’s happening just days after our second son Raphael graduated from Lumen Christi Catholic High School in Indianapolis.

In preparing for the sacrament, Philip, and Raphael before him (along with our sons Michael and Victor), learned about confirmation, it’s role in their life of faith and how the Spirit empowers them to grow in holiness, do God’s will and achieve their life’s goal—being a saint forever in heaven.

They’ve also reflected on the seven gifts and 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit, which theologians and spiritual writers through the centuries have discerned in meditating on the Scriptures.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1845). The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1832).

I’m glad my sons have learned about how the Holy Spirit can work in their lives by exploring its fruits and gifts. They’re a time-tested and scripturally rooted way of understanding how God is intimately involved in our lives, and how we can cooperate in countless ways with his grace.

It’s important to remember, though, that the development through the centuries in the Church’s tradition of seven and 12 gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit was not intended to discern the Spirit’s working in our lives in just those distinct categories.

In the Gospel of St. John, we read that God “does not ration his gift of the Spirit” (Jn 3:34). While those words specifically relate to Christ, it’s fair to conclude that this wondrous reality applies to us, too, insofar as we receive a share of Christ’s life in baptism, which is then strengthened in the sacrament of confirmation.

In pouring the Holy Spirit into our hearts in baptism, confirmation and, indeed, all the sacraments, God blesses all of us with an overabundance of the grace needed for salvation. This prodigious outpouring of the Spirit helps us bring others closer to him and the Church and to work with fellow believers to build up God’s kingdom in the world.

As Philip approaches being confirmed and in the wake of Raphael’s graduation, I’m more aware of the little ways that this can happen in the lives of Cindy and our sons than I was earlier in the life of our family. Such, for me at least, is the gift of having five sons. It’s given me a wealth of experiences in which to see God’s blessings.

But were I to have 10 sons, I could not even begin to plumb the infinite depths of the beautiful mystery of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Five is enough, though, to make my heart swell with gratitude for this divine gift.

Confirmations and graduations are turning points that come about first through God’s grace and also a lot of work from parents and the young people who experience them. God sets before us a feast of faith in both of these moments.

While graduations and confirmation are high points in the lives of families, God adorns each day of our lives with the grandeur of his grace. Allow the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to this transfigured reality. †

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