THE GIFT OF COUNSEL.
Consideration and prayer.
“We read in a biography of the holy pastor of Ars, that a priest of the diocese of Autumn had for a long time sought a solution to a very difficult problem by personal reflection and by consulting others: but all in vain. So he went to seek counsel from the holy Cure, and reported: “It was as if a cloud had suddenly evaporated.”
Father Vianney said only one word to him about that, but no one before him had expressed that simple and decisive word. He had not met it in any treatise, and yet that word gave an answer to everything. It shed so clear a light upon the most obscure point of the question that the priest, fully satisfied, could not help saying to himself: “There is someone who counsels him: that man has a prompter!“
So the priest asked Father Vianney: “Where did you study theology?” Father Vianney’s answer was merely a gesture; he pointed to his prie-dieu [a piece of furniture for use during prayer, consisting of a kneeling surface and a narrow upright front with a rest for the elbows or for books].
“That man has a prompter;” we could not find a better expression. Yes, the Cure of Ars had a prompter, an infallible one, namely, the Holy Spirit.
The biographer of Father Vianney, seeking to explain the admirable gift of discernment of that Cure, rightly remarked that his sureness of sight— that rightness of judgment—did not come from the pastor’s natural perspicacity, nor from his first education, nor from his studies and reasonings. “He, the humble priest, seemed rather to have a hidden but infallible criterion, a key which opened the most secret and best guarded doors of the hearts of men. There was something that enabled him to find his way of consciences… he discovered what was right… and what was evil and inexact.“
This latter remark may help us to express what is given to souls by the gift of Counsel, which enables a person to discern, immediately and as it were instinctively, what he must do or say in every circumstance.
This is what our Lord referred to when he said to the Apostles: “When you are brought before synagogues, before rulers and authorities, do not be anxious about the way to defend yourselves or about what you will say. The Holy Spirit at that moment will teach you all that you ought to say” (Lk 12:11- 12).
The gift of Counsel is to the gift of Knowledge, …, what the practical art of curing the sick is to the theoretical science of medicine; or if you prefer, it is to the gift of Knowledge what the art of resolving concrete cases of conscience is to the science of morals, which teaches the general principles to resolve such cases.
By the gift of Knowledge, the soul, delivered to the action of the Divine Spirit, acquires a way of appraising things and earthly events so that, spontaneously and naturally as it were, it judges all things after the manner of God himself.
Nevertheless, the gift of Knowledge gives only a general appraisal of earthly things. It does not tell us what is proper for us to do, or what we should avoid in particular cases, taking account of all circumstances which might modify the goodness or the moral malice of our free human acts. It perfects in us the virtue of faith concerning the things of this life.
That clear and precise idea about what should be done or avoided in given circumstances is not the result of study nor of reflection. It is a sort of intuition in virtue of that supernatural instinct imparted by the gift of Counsel. That is why it happens frequently that those who take advantage of that gift are unable to give a reason for their way of seeing things, while feeling certain that they judge things truthfully.
That gift of Counsel, evidently, is particularly necessary for directors and for all those who exercise authority over the neighbor. But it is not less advantageous to every soul which desires to respond fully to the merciful designs of God in its regard, and already in this life to attain holiness.
“(A. Riaud, The Holy Spirit Acting in our Souls).
Through the gift of wisdom, the Holy Spirit perfects the acts of the virtue of prudence, and prudence in turn tells us which means to use in any given situation.
- Frequently we must make a decision; sometimes it is an important matter, at other times much less so. But in all of them, our holiness is in some way involved. God grants the gift of wisdom to those who are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that they may make decisions quickly and correctly.
- This gift is like a supernatural instinct for knowing which way gives most glory to God.
Just as prudence is present in all our actions, so too the Holy Spirit, through the gift of counsel, is the Light and permanent guiding Principle of our actions.
- The Paraclete inspires us when we choose the MEANS to carry out God’s will. He leads us along paths which involve charity, peace, joy, sacrifice, fulfilment of duty and faithfulness in small things. He marks out the path for us at every instant.
The gift of counsel presupposes that we have used all the other means necessary to act prudently: to obtain the necessary data; to foresee the possible consequences of our actions, to learn from the experience of similar situations in the past, to ask advice when the moment comes.
- This is natural prudence which is then reinforced by grace. Along with supernatural prudence we receive this gift of counsel which allows us to make a sure and quick decision regarding the means to be used, or the reply to be given, or the way to be followed.
The gift of counsel is a great help in keeping a true conscience, and not letting it be deformed.
- If we are docile, the Holy Spirit will illumine our conscience with light and advice. Our soul will not deviate or make excuses for faults and sins. Rather it will react with contrition, with a greater sorrow at having offended God.
- This gift illumines brightly the soul which is faithful to God, in such a way that it does not apply moral laws wrongly, does not allow human respect to sway it, is not carried away by fashions and trends of the moment, but is ruled always by God’s will.
- The Paraclete counsels us, directly or through others, regarding which is the right path to follow, a path which may well be different from the one suggested by the spirit of the world. A person who ceases to apply moral norms to his behaviour, whether in important or not so important matters, does so because he places his own will before the will of God.
SOURCE: ICWG, vol. 2, n.90
“Holy Spirit, Love of the Father and of the Son, inspire me always as to what I must think, what I must say, what I must write, how I must behave, what I must do to work efficaciously for your glory, for the good of souls and for my own sanctification. (A. Riaud, The Holy Spirit Acting in Our Souls).”
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