The Supernatural Organism - Part IV of V
by Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.
Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. former Director of the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University of Saint
Thomas Aquinas in Rome, is an honorary professor of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he has been giving special courses in
Spirituality since 1977.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Acts of the Virtues and Gifts
In general usage, a Gift signifies anything that one person gives to another out of Liberality and with Benevolence. We say
"out of Liberality" to signify that on the part of the Giver a Gift excludes any notion
of Debt or Obligation. And we say "with Benevolence" to signify the
Love that prompts the Gift. Nevertheless, the notion of a Gift does not exclude Gratitude on the part of
the one receiving the Gift; even more, it sometimes demands the Good Use of the Gift, depending on the Nature of the Gift and the
intention of the Giver, as when one gives something in order that the Receiver be Perfected by its use. Such are the
Gifts that God bestows on
The First Great Gift of
God is the Holy Spirit,
Who is the very Love by which God Loves
Himself and Loves us. The Holy
Spirit is, therefore, the First Gift of God,
not only because He is the Substantial Love
in the Intimate Life of the Trinity, but also because
He dwells in us through Sanctifying Grace. From this
First Gift proceed all other Gifts of
God. In the last-analysis, whatever God gives to
His Creatures, both in the Supernatural and in the Natural Order,
is a completely Gratuitous Effect of His Liberal and
Existence of the Gifts
The existence of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit can be known to us only through
Revelation, since they are Supernatural
Realities that completely Transcend the Light of Natural Reason. Saint Thomas
begins with this supposition in the Treatise on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the
Summa Theologica, and says that in the Doctrine on the
Gifts we should follow the Mode of Speaking as found in Sacred Scripture,
where they are Revealed to us.
The classical text of Isaiah is usually quoted as the Scriptural Foundation for the Doctrine on the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit: "There shall come forth a Shoot
from the Stump of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of His Roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of Wisdom
and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Might, the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord. And His delight shall be in the
Fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:1-3).
This text is clearly Messianic and properly refers only to the Messiah. Nevertheless,
the Fathers of the Church and the Church herself have extended
the meaning to the Faithful of Christ in virtue of the Universal Principle of the
Economy of Grace that Saint Paul enunciated:
"For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the Image of His Son, in order that He
might be the First-Born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). From this it is inferred that whatever
Perfection is found in Christ, our
Head, if it is Communicable, is found also in the members United to
Him through Grace. And it is evident that the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit pertain to Communicable Perfections, if
we bear in mind the need we have of them. Hence, we may rightly conclude that the Seven (7)
Spirits that the Prophet saw descend and rest upon
Christ are also the Patrimony of all those who are United to Him in
In addition to this text, which the Fathers and the Church have interpreted as a clear
allusion to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, authors are wont to cite other texts from the
Old and New Testaments. However, the Doctrine on the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit rests almost exclusively on the text from Isaiah.
The Teaching of the Church is explicit in the
Liturgy. In the Divine Office for Pentecost Sunday,
the Hymn at Evening Prayer addresses the Holy Spirit as follows:
"Thou Who art Sevenfold in Thy Grace"; and in the Prayer for the
Feast the Church asks God to
"pour out the Gifts of the Spirit on all Mankind". In the Sequence for the
Mass of Pentecost we sing: "On the faithful, who adore and confess You,
evermore in Your Sevenfold Gifts descend". Lastly, in the administration of the Sacrament
of Confirmation, the Bishop extends his hands over those to be Confirmed and Prays:
All-powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Water and the Holy Spirit You freed Your sons and
daughters from Sin, and gave them New Life. Send Your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the Spirit of
Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Right Judgment and Courage, the Spirit of Knowledge and Reverence. Fill them with the Spirit
of Wonder and Awe in Your Presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says that "from these Gifts of the Holy Spirit ....
we derive the Rules for Christian Living, and through them we are able to know whether the Holy Spirit dwells in us".
In his Encyclical,
Divinum Illud Munus, Pope Leo XIII Recalls and Reaffirms
the Traditional Teaching of the Church concerning
the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
More than this, the Just Man, that is to say, he who lives the Life of Divine Grace and Acts by the
fitting Virtues as by means of Faculties, has need of those Seven Gifts which are Properly Attributed to the Holy Spirit. By means of
these Gifts the Soul is Furnished and Strengthened so as to be able to Obey more Easily and Promptly His Voice and Impulse. Wherefore,
these Gifts are of such Efficacy that they lead the Just Man to the Highest Degree of Sanctity; and of such Excellence that they
continue to exist even in Heaven, though in a more Perfect Way. By means of these Gifts, the Soul is Excited and Encouraged to seek
after and attain the Evangelical Beatitudes which, like the flowers that come forth in the springtime, are signs and harbingers of
The Number of the Gifts presents
Two (2) Principal Difficulties: (1)
in Sacred Scripture the Number Seven (7) is classically interpreted to
signify a certain Indefinite Plenitude;
(2) in the text of Isaiah only Six (6) distinct
Gifts are enumerated, for the Gift of Fear
is mentioned Twice.
Some Exegetes think that the text of Isaiah refers to an Indefinite
Plenitude and therefore to more than Seven (7)
Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Theologians who accept this Exegesis will likewise hold for an
Indefinite Number of Gifts.
An Indefinite Plenitude may refer to a
Number that is left Undetermined, or it may signify a definite Number
that contains all possible applications. It is this Second Sense that Saint Thomas
seems to accept, for he says that "it is evident that these Gifts extend to everything to which the Moral
and Intellectual Virtues also extend". Consequently, just as the Seven (7)
Infused Virtues suffice for all the needs of the
Christian Life, but admit of a certain Indefinite
Plenitude (especially the Moral Virtues, which can be divided into
Integral, Subjective, and Potential Parts), so also it would seem logical to say that the Gifts
are Seven (7) in Number, but admit
of an Indefinite Plenitude because they Perfect the
Infused Virtues. Therefore, the Indefinite
Plenitude can be understood as a determined Number of
Gifts possessing Multiple Modalities.
Various explanations have been offered for the omission of the Gift of Piety in the
text of Isaiah, but it is explicitly mentioned in the Patristic Tradition, in the Official Teachings of the
Church, and in the Unanimous Teaching of Theologians. To prescind from this Weight of Authority because of certain
Textual Obscurities would seem to be unwarranted. Many things formally revealed in Sacred Scripture did not appear in
their fullness except through the Interpretation of the Fathers and the Magisterium of the Church.
Whatever the text of Isaiah, Saint Paul describes the Reality when he writes to the Romans:
"All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. You did not receive a Spirit of Slavery leading you
back into fear, but a Spirit of Adoption through which we cry out, 'Abba!' (that is, 'Father'). The Spirit Himself gives Witness with our
spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:14-16).
The Nature of the Gifts
Saint Thomas studies the Metaphysical Nature of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
by asking whether they are Habits, in order to determine the Proximate Genus in the
essential Definition of the Gifts. The reply is in the 'Affirmative', and Theologians of
all Schools hold for the same response, with few exceptions.
Two (2) Objections have been raised against the
Classification of the Gifts as Habits. Their
solution will enable us to see more clearly the Nature of the Gifts.
First Error: For a Person to be moved by the
Inspiration or Instinct of the Holy Spirit, an Actual
Grace suffices. Therefore, the Gifts are not
Habits but Actual Graces.
To this Error we respond that insofar as the Supernatural
Movement proceeds from the Holy Spirit, it could be classified as an
Actual Grace. On the part of the Soul, however, a distinction is
necessary. If the Holy Spirit Acts upon the Soul
by Bestowing some Grace by way of an Impulse (and such a
Grace can be offered even to Sinners) or as a
Charism (Gratia Gratis Data), these Graces,
as received, are also Actual Graces. But if the Holy
Spirit's Action on the Soul requires a Previous Disposition so that the
Soul may be moved Easily and Promptly, then the
Soul needs Habits that can be Actuated in a
Supernatural Mode, and such are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it
is commonly taught by Theologians that the Gifts are the Perfection of the
Infused Virtues; therefore, the Gifts must,
like the Virtues, be Operative Habits.
Error: It is objected that the Holy Spirit is an
Infinite Agent of Operation and needs no Previous Disposition on the part of the
Soul. Therefore the Gifts are not
To this Error we reply that we have already admitted that the Holy
Spirit can Act on a Soul, however and whenever
He wishes. But the Ordinary Working of Divine Providence
is Smooth and Connatural. Moreover, we are faced with the fact of the Existence of the Seven
(7) Gifts of the Holy Spirit as Infused
Habits, as we have already seen.
The Gifts and the Infused Virtues
There are Numerous Characteristics common to both the Gifts and the
Virtues. The Principal Ones are as follows:
They are Generically the same, because both are Operative Habits.
They have the same Efficient Cause, namely, God, and therefore they are both
Infused Supernatural Habits.
They have the same Subject of Inhesion: the Human Faculties.
They have the same Material Object: all Moral Matter.
They have the same Final Cause: the Supernatural
Perfection of Man, Incipient in this World and Consummated in the World to come.
The differences between the Gifts and the
Virtues are likewise Numerous, but we can list them briefly in a Series of Statements.
The Motor Cause of the Infused Virtues is Human
Reason - Reason
Illumined by Faith and Prompted by an
Actual Grace. The Gifts Operate under the Impetus of the
Holy Spirit, Who Actuates the
Gifts by Direct-Contact. For that reason, the
Habits of the Infused Virtues can be used when we wish, presupposing
an Actual Grace, but the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit Operate only when the Holy Spirit so desires.
Because the Infused Virtues function under the Direction and Control of
Reason Illumined by Faith, their Operations are
restricted to a Human Mode of Action. The Gifts, on the other hand, have the
Holy Spirit as their Motor Cause; therefore they Operate in a
Divine or Supernatural Mode.
In the exercise of the Infused Virtues, the
Soul is Fully Active; its Acts are produced in a Human Manner or Mode, and the
Soul is Fully Conscious that it works when and how it pleases. The Exercise of the
Gifts is entirely different. The Holy Spirit is the unique Motor Cause
of the Gifts; the Soul is Receptive, though
Conscious and Free. Thus we preserve Freedom and Merit under the Operation of the Gifts,
but the Soul merely Seconds the Divine
Motion, which belongs entirely to the Holy Spirit.
Such are the Principal Differences between the Infused Virtues and the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The First One establishes the Radical and Specific differences
between the Virtues and the Gifts;
the others are logical consequences of the First One.
Necessity of the Gifts
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are in no sense
Extraordinary or purely
Charismatic Graces. They are given with Sanctifying
Grace and form part of the Supernatural Organism. Moreover, the
Gifts are necessary for the Perfection of the Infused
Virtues, and also for Salvation.
First of all, if the Gifts are said to Perfect the
Virtues, this signifies that even the Infused Virtues are subject to
Now there are Five (5) Principal Reasons or Occasions of
Imperfection in any given Habit or
When a Habit does not attain its complete Material Object. Such is the case of students
of Theology who have not yet studied certain Tracts. They know something of Theology, and they have the Habit of Theology, but
Incompletely and Imperfectly.
When the Habit lacks the Intensity by which it should attain its Object. For example,
the student who has gone over an entire assignment, but Superficially and
When the Habit is Weakly Rooted in the Subject (e.g., through
Lack of Sufficient Use).
These Three (3) Imperfections can be
found in the Infused Virtues but can be corrected by the
Virtues themselves. They do not need the Influence of the
Gifts to be extended to the Total Object of the Virtue, to increase in
Intensity, or to Multiply their Acts.
When there is an Intrinsic Imperfection that pertains to the Nature of the
Habit itself. This occurs, for example, in the Habit
of Faith (of things not seen) and Hope (of things not yet possessed).
Neither the Virtues themselves nor the
Gifts can Correct these Imperfections without destroying the
Virtues in question.
Because of the Disproportion between the Habit and the Subject in which it resides. This
is precisely the case with the Infused Virtues. They are
Supernatural Habits, but the Subject in which they are received is the Human Faculties. Consequently, on being
received into the Soul, the Infused Virtues
Operate in a Human Mode. They accommodate themselves to the Psychological Operations of Man. This is why the
Infused Virtues do not give Facility in Operation; that is provided by the Acquired
Now, if we possess Imperfectly the Habits
of the Infused Virtues, the Acts that proceed from them will also be
Imperfect unless some Superior Agent intervenes to Perfect them.
This is the purpose of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Moved and Regulated, not by
Human Reason, as are the Virtues, but
by the Holy Spirit, they bestow on the Virtues,
and especially the Theological Virtues, that Divine
Atmosphere that they need in order to develop all their Supernatural Virtuality.
The Theological Virtues give us a Participation in
the Supernatural Knowledge that God has of
Himself (Faith) and of
His very Love of Himself
(Charity), and make us desire Him as our
Supreme Good (Hope). These
Lofty Objects, absolutely Transcendent and
Divine, are necessarily constrained to a Modality that is Human, so long as they remain
under the Rule and Control of Reason, even though
Enlightened by Faith. They demand a Regulation or Rule that is also
Divine - that of the Gifts.
This Argument is also Valid for the Infused Moral Virtues.
Although they do not Transcend the Rule of Reason as regards their Immediate Objects,
they are Directed to a Supernatural End and receive from
Charity their Form and their Life in that Transcendent Order.
Therefore, to be Perfect, they must receive a Divine Mode
that will Adapt and Accommodate them to this Orientation to the Supernatural End. Therefore,
the Gifts embrace all the Matter of the Infused
Virtues, both Theological and Moral.
Secondly, the Necessity of the Gifts for
Salvation is a Logical Consequence of the need of the
Gifts for the Perfection of the Infused Virtues. Saint Thomas
Aquinas gives the following Theological Proof:
The Gifts are Perfections by which a person is disposed to be amenable to the Promptings of God. Hence in
those matters where the Promptings of Reason do not suffice and there is need for the Prompting of the Holy Spirit, there is
consequently need for a Gift.
Now Human Reason is Perfected by God in Two Ways: First, with its Natural Perfection, namely, the Natural
Light of Reason; Secondly, with a Supernatural Perfection, the Theological Virtues. And though the latter Perfection is greater than
the former, the former is possessed by us in a more Perfect Manner than the latter; for we have the former in our Complete Possession,
but we possess the latter Imperfectly, because we know and Love God Imperfectly ....
Accordingly, in matters subject to Human Reason and directed to our Connatural End, we can work through
the Judgment of our Reason; and if we receive help even in these things by way of Special Promptings from God, it will be out of God's
Superabundant Goodness .... But in matters directed to the Supernatural End, to which Reason moves insofar as it is Imperfectly
Informed by the Theological Virtues, the Movement of Reason does not suffice; there must be present in addition the Prompting and
Movement of the Holy Spirit. This is in accord with Romans 8:14: "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God"; and
Psalm 143:10 states: "May Your good Spirit guide me on level ground"; because no one can ever receive the Inheritance of
the Blessed unless he be led and moved thither by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in order to accomplish this End, it is necessary to have
the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Some Theologians have considered this Doctrine excessive, but that is because they confuse the question
de jure with the question de facto.
[de jure is an expression that means
"concerning law", as contrasted with de facto,
which means "concerning fact"] It is true that many are
Saved without any Operation of the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit, but never without the Habits of the
Gifts. On the other hand, the Actuation of the Gifts is Morally and
sometimes Physically necessary in order to Preserve Grace, and in this case the Actuation
of the Gifts would be necessary for Salvation.
The reason is the Insufficiency of Human Reason, even
Enlightened by Faith, to lead us to the
Supernatural End without Obstructions. But there is still another reason,
based on the Corruption of Human Nature as a Consequence of
Original Sin. The Infused Virtues do not reside in a Sound Nature,
but in a Nature inclined to Evil, and although the
Virtues have Sufficient Power to conquer all Temptations opposed to them,
they cannot de facto overcome some of them without the Help of the
Gifts, especially the Violent Temptations that arise unexpectedly. In those
circumstances in which Resistance or a Fall
is a Decision of the Moment, a person must Act Quickly, as if by a Supernatural Instinct,
that is, under the Influence and Movement of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Gifts in Particular
The difficulty in establishing an Exact Correlation between the Virtues
and the Gifts is Twofold.
First, the Virtues cover such a wide range
of Human Acts that One (1) Virtue may relate
to Several Gifts; for example, the Virtue of Faith
relates to both Understanding and Knowledge.
Second, some of the Gifts, such as
Counsel, and Fear of the Lord, apply to more
than One (1) Virtue;
thus, Fear of the Lord relates to the Virtues
of Hope and Temperance. We shall divide the
Gifts according to the Faculties in which they reside, and describe the Function of each
Then, in Treating of the Virtues in particular, we shall discuss briefly the
Gift or Gifts that Perfect each
Two (2) Important Points should be stressed before we discuss the
Gifts in particular. First, our
Participation in the Divine Life is not a Transitory thing; rather, we
are meant, through Sanctifying Grace, to share in a Permanent manner in the very Life and
Nature of God, beginning here in Time and continuing through all
Eternity in Glory. Moreover, our Operations under
Grace are meant to become Connatural to us and for that reason we receive the
Infused Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
as Habits in the Original Sense of the Latin Word Habitus.
When we speak of the Movement or Instinctus of the Holy
Spirit in relation to the Gifts, we are referring to the Actuation of the
Gifts, but the Gifts as
Habits are our possession so long as we remain in Grace.
Second, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
unlike the Infused Virtues, Operate in a Supernatural
Mode or Manner. The reason for this is that even our Highest Virtues, the
Theological Virtues, Operate Imperfectly in us.
Precisely because they Function under our Direction, their Mode of Operation is always Human and hence
Imperfect. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, therefore, are not
simply Emergency Measures used by the Holy Spirit when we are in Special Difficulty, they are
the Means by which an individual attains the "Divinization" that is the goal of
Sanctification. The Supernatural Modality of
the Gifts must be kept in mind, especially when we discuss the
Gifts in relation to the Virtues, for we may easily overlook the
fact that though the Names are sometimes identical or the Material Objects are the same, the Operation of the
Gifts is always a Movement in which the Holy Spirit
is the Primary Agent.
The Holy Spirit leads us in Two Ways
Via the Infused Virtues
Via Gifts of the Holy
Seven (7) Theological and Moral Virtues infused at
Seven (7) Gifts of the Holy Spirit infused at
The Motor Cause of the
Infused Virtues is Human
The Motor Cause of the
Gifts is the Holy Spirit
We left to Act completely on our own with Great
Enables us to accomplish the Infused Virtues with
In the Activity of the Infused Virtues, the Natural Powers of the Soul
Will) are in control. In each
Virtue the Human
Mind deliberates and the
Will chooses the way one
the Activity of the Gifts,
on the other hand, the Soul
Acts in a Divine Way, for
no longer moves itself,
is moved by a Divine Instinct. The
Soul's Activity is that of
We set these Acts in Motion under the
Actual Grace. The
Intellect and Will are in control.
the Faculties of the Soul
Docile and Disposed to react more Promptly and Easily to
God is in control.
We are aided only by the Infused Virtue itself.
The Holy Spirit leads by means of the
We do not have perfect possession of the Virtues
because of the Inherent Weakness in our
The Infused Virtues - Indispensable as they are - will not
be enough in every situation.
When the Holy Spirit leads by means of the
Human Weaknesses are overcome, the task is accomplished with Greater Ease, and the
Infused Virtues are exercised more
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are compared to
the Sails of a Boat that catch the Divine Inspirations, and carry us along as the
Holy Spirit leads us where and when
we consenting to His Action. As
these Gifts become more-active, and the
Holy Spirit takes a
Greater-Role in the direction of our lives.
The Gifts render
the Intellect and
Will docile-and-receptive to the
Inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
Soul acting under the
Gifts is Free, and
in each Act.
Like the Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
can be divided according to the Faculties through which they Operate, and then specifically by their Formal Objects. The Human Faculties
are classified in general as either Cognitive, relating to Knowledge, or Appetitive,
relating to Orexis. Now, Human Knowledge may be either
Speculative or Practical, while Human Orexis may involve the Operations of the
Will or the Emotions. And just as there are
Virtues to Perfect the Operations of all these Faculties, so there are Gifts of the
Holy Spirit to Perfect the Virtues, as we have already seen. Consequently,
we can divide the Seven (7) Gifts of the Holy
Spirit as follows:
Understanding: to give a, deeper Insight and Penetration of
Divine Truths held by Faith, not as a Transitory Enlightenment
but as a Permanent Intuition.
Knowledge: to Judge Rightly concerning the Truths of
Faith in accordance with their Proper Causes and the Principles of Revealed Truth.
Wisdom: to Judge and Order all things in accordance with
Divine Norms and with a Connaturality that flows from Loving Union with
Counsel: to render the individual Docile and Receptive to the
Counsel of God regarding one's Actions in view of Sanctification
Piety: to give Filial Worship to God
precisely as our Father and to relate with all people as children of the same
Fortitude: to overcome Difficulties or to
endure Pain and Suffering with the Strength
and Power infused by God.
Fear of the Lord: to avoid Sin and Attachment
to Created Things, out of Reverence and Love of
- End of Part IV -