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Jesus Witnesses Red Tulips
Digital Photograph, Jean-Marie Lee, 2018

JML-PLOGS poetic commentary is below

Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Mental Health

People ask me all the time about why I’m Catholic and about why I believe in God. My response is always the same; I practice Catholicism because it helps keep me grounded in life. And my belief in God as a Trinity is more of an innate understanding of “God, Human, Holy Spirit—“ or “Father, Son, Holy Spirit—“ or “Mother, Daughter, Holy Spirit.” Maybe it’s from Catholic Religious praying for me while I was in my own mother’s womb— I don’t know that an explanation is necessary or would ever suffice. For all the reasons not to believe— especially with corruption and imperfection within the Church— I’ll say God predates all religions, myths, and time.

I’m not a fundamentalist or a creationist and my views probably are not the stereotypical white female and I don’t like being pigeonholed for being from Alabama and believing in God. Having Faith and a belief in God gives me the conviction and assurance that no matter what happens everything will be okay. I think often people just need a reason to do anything to move forward in their life.

This Plog today is about the relationship of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to aid feeling sane and in a state of grace especially when nothing is going right and maybe you feel defeated by life. Most people who deal with anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or any other mental illness have lots of thoughts. I’m not going to give you a New Age spiel on evaluating your energy sources or getting rid of your thoughts. My goal is to provide definitions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that can be appreciated and applied to daily life and any type of crisis situation.

Wisdom is considered the first and the greatest of the gifts. It acts upon both the intellect and the will. According to St. Bernard, it both illumines the mind and instills an attraction to the divine. Adolphe Tanquerey OP explained the difference between the gift of wisdom and that of understanding, "...the latter is a view taken by the mind, while the former is an experience undergone by the heart; one is light, the other love, and so they unite and complete one another." Wisdom is the perfection of the theological virtue of charity.

Understanding is a perceptive intuition which illuminates the mind to grasp the truths of faith. It does not involve a comprehensive understanding of the mysteries of faith, but helps a person understand that these mysteries are credible; compatible with and related to each other; and not unreasonable. The gift of understanding perfects the theological virtue of faith.

Counsel functions as a sort of supernatural intuition, to enable a person to judge promptly and rightly, especially in difficult situations. It perfects the cardinal virtue of prudence. While prudence operates in accord with reason as enlightened by faith, the gift of counsel operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the will of God.

Fortitude is often identified with courage, but Aquinas takes its meaning to also encompass endurance. Joseph J. Rickaby describes it as a willingness to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of fortitude allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil. It is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of the same name.

Knowledge The gift of knowledge allows one, as far as is humanly possible, to see things from God's perspective. It “allows us to perceive the greatness of God and his love for his creatures” through creation.

Piety accords with reverence. A person with reverence recognizes his total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Thomas Aquinas says that piety perfects the virtue of religion, which is an aspect of the virtue of justice, in that it accords to God that which is due him. In a series of talks on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said that piety is a recognition of "...our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments”. "Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters,..."

Fear of the Lord is akin to wonder (or awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord, one is made aware of the glory and majesty of God. At a June 2014 general audience Pope Francis said that it “is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace”. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all one desires. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the perfection of the theological virtue of hope. (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_gifts_of_…)

So, if you’re still reading— you probably automatically understand that these gifts are free for everyone. If you were to write these gifts down and fold them up to have in your pocket— you could physically know that you’re carrying them around with you always. And you could pull them out of your pocket whenever you need to be reminded of these free gifts from God.

Most likely 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina— is the year that was my lowest point for dealing with the “aftermath.” I had depleted all of my personal resources just in time for the Great Recession. Inevitably, I was laid off from my job; which I was so mentally gone— I really didn’t care. I didn’t care what anyone had to say to me and I didn’t care if I was alive or dead. I felt very hollow, depleted, and very numb— especially to petty complaints about trivial things like pasta needing more salt or cheese. Nothing mattered.

Occasionally, I subjected myself to listen to the complaints from my family. And I did not care about what they had to say. I literally did not care about anything and I knew I wanted to care about something. I would go and sit in the morning Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception just trying to feel something and it took some time. I would sit after Mass and say the Prayer for Saint Michael the Archangel to defend us in battle. And slowly I started pulling my life back together again. I hung lists of these gifts of the Holy Spirit all over my apartment so I would constantly remember all the gifts that were freely given without any strings attached. I reminded myself these gifts weren’t biased or conceited or seeking accomplishments. And I’ll testify— the gifts of the Holy Spirit work — you just have to let them.


In Honor of Pentecost Sunday
and in honor of Saint Bernardino’s
feast day, May 20, 2018.

Pentecost Sunday

Saint Bernardino of Siena

Saint Theresa of Alvia




Plog Post: Sunday, May 20, 2018