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Fruits Of The Holy Spirit

January 7, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


In concluding our consideration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit last week, we saw that the gift of “fear of the Lord,” even though listed last by the Prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 11:2-3) and lowest in the order of excellence among the seven, is the initial and foundational gift on which the perfection of the others depends. It is a filial or reverential fear that moves a person to do God’s will and avoid sin solely out of love for God, who is all good and deserving of all our love.
“The gift of fear comprises three principal elements,” explains Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, “a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 230).
Theologians classify fear into types or categories: worldly, which fears the loss of some temporal creature more than committing an offense against God — it is always evil; servile, which shuns an offense against God for an imperfect and selfish motive, the dread of punishment — it is commendable in that it keeps one from sin and serves as a salutary step in bringing one closer to God; and filial, which consists in a lively repugnance at the very thought of separation from God — it has as its sole motive a selfless love of God with no concern about punishment.
Initial fear is identified as a beginning or intermediate stage between servile and filial fear where the motives for each coexist. The type of fear that is a gift of the Holy Spirit is filial fear.
The distinction between servile and filial fear is apparent in a section of the Act of Contrition: “I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell [servile fear]; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love [filial fear].” An act of imperfect contrition in the context of the Sacrament of Penance, it is important to note, is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of sanctifying grace provided one is sorry and truly repentant of his or her sins.
Growth in charity to the point of filial fear and love of God should, however, be our overarching goal. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, we are called to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
What actions or works, then, are manifested by the Christian in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit are activated? As we proceeded through the seven gifts, we saw that each one is connected by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine to a particular beatitude. In addition, the tradition of the Church holds that there are twelve fruits produced by the Holy Spirit, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory” (n. 1832).
As expressed in another way by the Angelic Doctor, “the fruits of the Spirit…are so called because they are something ultimate and delightful, produced in us by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Summa Theologiae [STh] II-II, Q. 8, art. 8). Thus it may be said that the beatitudes and the fruits are human actions produced by the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit working in us. However, “more is required for a beatitude than for a fruit….Hence all the beatitudes may be called fruits, but not vice-versa” (STh I-II, Q. 70, art. 2).
Why are they called fruits? In Sacred Scripture, as noted by St. Thomas, “It is written: ‘By the fruit the tree is known’ (Matt. 12:33); that is to say, man is known by his works” (STh I-II, Q. 70, art. 1). He goes on to posit that the word “fruit” has been transferred from the material to the spiritual world, and that “our works, insofar as they are produced by the Holy Spirit working in us, are fruits” (STh I-II, Q. 70, art. 1, ad 1).
As enumerated by St. Paul, they include “charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, [and] chastity” (Gal. 5:22-23 [Douay-Rheims version]).
The use of the word “include” to preface St. Paul’s list of fruits is intentional. As Archbishop Luis M. Martinez explains in his classic work on the Holy Spirit entitled The Sanctifier (TSa), “There is such a rich variety of [fruits] that it is impossible to name them all” (p. 249). He goes on to say that in spite of their abundance and variety, a list of twelve is fitting in that the fruits can be reduced to that number by reason of analogies that unite them into types.
St. Thomas makes a scriptural connection to demonstrate the suitability of twelve as the number of fruits: “On both sides of the river was the tree of life bearing twelve fruits” (Rev. 22:2). The Angelic Doctor goes on to classify the fruits based on the various kinds of order the Holy Spirit produces in souls: “first of all, in regard to itself; secondly, in regard to things that are near it; thirdly, in regard to things that are below it” (STh I-II, Q. 70, art. 3).
Drawing liberally from the marvelous insights of Archbishop Martinez in his previously cited work (see TSa, pp. 249-286), we will now proceed to briefly describe each of the twelve fruits, some of which bear the identical name of a virtue, but signify two different realities.
The first three fruits — charity, joy, and peace — pertain to the order of the soul itself. Love is the first and fundamental affection in the soul, the root of this intimate process of ordering. The doctrine of Jesus is one of love: love of God and love of neighbor (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). As St. Augustine says, “Love and do what you will.” Charity, as a theological virtue, is possessed by all souls in the state of grace. But “in order that its sweetness be perceived charity must reach a certain maturity.” The precious fruit of charity appears when love has thoroughly prepared our hearts; different from the virtue, “it is a supreme emanation from it” (TSa, p. 251).
The second fruit, that of joy, logically follows upon charity. As the spouse cries in the Song of Solomon, “I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him: and I will not let him go” (Song 3:4). The soul rejoices in having reached a level of spiritual maturity where it interiorly experiences the presence of the Beloved. A kind of exquisite, ineffable joy radiates from a person that others cannot fail but notice.
In turn, the third fruit, that of peace, logically follows joy. St. Thomas defines peace as “the perfection of joy” (STh I-II, Q. 70, art. 3). “It not only delivers the soul from the fretful trouble of exterior things,” says Archbishop Martinez, “but calms the inner fluctuations of its desires and marvelously disposes and unifies its affections” (TSa, p. 256).
The next two fruits — patience and magnanimity — are given to us by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to conduct ourselves in the afflictions we must bear in this life. Generally speaking, they fall into two classes: “One comprises all that goes contrary to our wishes, our inclinations; the other consists in the desire for the good things that we lack” (TSa, p. 260).
Patience, which is a fruit of fortitude, might be described as “serenity in pain” or “love that suffers.” Magnanimity (or long-suffering), on the other hand, is a fruit of hope. It enables us “to hope and even to find an intimate satisfaction, a secret delight, in the slowness of God” (TSa, p. 265).
The five fruits we have covered thus far are principally associated with our contemplative or inner life. But as St. Thomas teaches, whenever our active life is not well-ordered and perfectly disposed, our contemplative life is impeded (cf. STh II-II, Q. 182, art. 3).
The remaining seven fruits, then, are produced in us by the Holy Spirit to assist us in two aspects of the active life: our relations with other men, and our relations with inferior things.
The fruits for dealing with other men are goodness, benignity, mildness, and faith. Our relations to our neighbors might be reduced to two points: “to have the will to do good to others, and actually to do good to as many as possible” (TSa, p. 271). Goodness corresponds to our desire to do good to all, but love asks for more, for as St. John says: “Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Benignity (or kindness) corresponds to the generous execution of our interior disposition.
The fruit of mildness (meekness or gentleness) serves to moderate our response in cases of righteous anger when others bring evils upon us. As we all know from experience, anger sows resentment while mildness sways hearts. The fruit listed by St. Paul as faith is sometimes referred to as faithfulness. It corresponds to fidelity, sincerity, loyalty — it means that we are faithful to our word and our affections.

Kings Of Creation

The final three fruits of the Spirit — modesty, continency, and chastity — order our relations to inferior creatures (e.g., wealth, pleasures, honors, etc.). Modesty, as used by St. Paul, refers not only to the way we dress, speak, and act, but to “the moderation and harmony that should mark our relations to all creatures. It means control in the uses of riches, of honors, and in our whole exterior behavior” (TSa, p. 283). The fruits of continence (or self-control) and chastity, “bridle the concupiscences that we inherit from our first parents and establish order in the interior part of our being” (ibid.).
These three fruits free us, unchain us — they reinstate us as kings of creation.

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(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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