Gifts of the Holy Spirit Series - UNDERSTANDING
What is the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Understanding?
By Fr. Edlefsen
Last week, I said that the Spirit’s Gifts are subtle, supernatural “dispositions” given to us at
Baptism. The Spirit’s Gifts are like a ship’s sails. They “catch the wind” of the Spirit’s breath.
“The Spirit blows where he wills…” (John 3:8). While Wisdom is the first Gift of the Spirit
mentioned among seven, the Gift of Understanding is the second (see Isaiah 11:2-3).
Wisdom perfects love. Understanding perfects faith. When the Holy Spirit works through
Understanding, we take to heart our Catholic faith. This includes the meaning of the narratives
and letters of the Bible, the spiritual insights of sacred Tradition, and the teachings of the Creed
and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Understanding enlivens our “sense of the faith”
(sensus fidelium), and it makes faith personal. For us, faith becomes more than lots of dry
information in a catechism book or obscure Bible stories. Through Understanding, our Catholic
faith become a life-giving fact of life.
Pray for Understanding before reading the Bible or the Catechism, and before attending Mass.
Students should pray for Understanding before studying religion and even secular subjects. It
helps us see all things through a living, real, and practical faith in Jesus Christ.
Through Understanding, the Holy Spirit enlightens our mind with intuitive insights into life’s
toughest issues. But watch out! Understanding powerfully impacts memory. It purifies our
imagination. This can be a painful experience, at least for a while. Through Understanding, the
Holy Spirit digs up “old bones,” but with a twist. Old memories – good and bad – surface so we
can see our lives through the serene and healing light of the risen Christ. Fear dissipates.
Understanding teams up with Wisdom to resolve things. Understanding has healing properties
that deepen our knowledge of life’s experience and God’s Word. Understanding blossoms in
the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”