Continuing his series of reflections at the General Audience on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, this week he focused on the Gift of Counsel. Emer McCarthy reports:
“We know how important it is, especially in the most delicate moments, to be able to count on the advice of wise people who love us. Now, through the gift of counsel, it is God himself, with his Spirit who enlightens our hearts, so as to help us understand the proper way to speak and behave and the path to follow. But how does this work? From the moment we welcome and host Him in our hearts, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to make us sensitive to His voice and to direct our thoughts, our feelings and our intentions according to God’s heart. At the same time, He increasingly brings us to turn our inward gaze upon Jesus as a model of how to act and relate with God the Father and our brothers and sisters. Counsel, then, is the gift by which the Holy Spirit makes our conscience capable of making a concrete choice in communion with God, according to the logic of Jesus and of his Gospel. In this way, the Spirit helps us grow inwardly, helps us grow positively, helps us grow in communion and helps us to avoid being at the mercy of selfishness and our own way of seeing things. This is how the Spirit helps us grow and also live in communion.”
The Holy Father went on to say that the essential condition to preserve this gift is prayer. “We always return to the same point: prayer. Prayer, praying is so important. Praying those prayers that we all know from childhood but also praying with our words, praying to the Lord: ‘Lord, help me, advise me, what should I do now?’. With prayer we make room for the Spirit to come and help us in that moment, he advises us all on what we must do. Prayer, never forget prayer, never. Nobody notices when we pray on the bus, on the streets, we pray in silence, with our hearts, take advantage of these moments to pray. Pray for the Spirit to give us this gift of counsel.”
“In intimacy with God and listening to His Word slowly we put aside our personal logic, dictated most of the time by our closure, our prejudices and our ambitions, and instead learn to ask the Lord, what is your wish? Seek advice from the Lord. And we do so with prayer.”
“In this way a profound harmony matures in us, almost innate in the Spirit and we experience how true the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew are: ‘When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say (Mt 10:19-20)’. It is the Spirit who counsels us but we have to make room for the Spirit to give us counsel and give space to prayer, prayer for Him to come and always help us.”
“Like all the other gifts of the Spirit, counsel is also a treasure for the entire Christian community. The Lord speaks to us not only in the intimacy of our heart, – He speaks to us, yes, but not only there – but also through the voice and the testimony of others. It really is a great gift to meet the men and women of faith who , especially in the most complicated and important moments of our lives, help us to shed light in our hearts and recognize the will of the Lord.”
The Pope moved from his prepared text to add: “I remember once, I was in the confessional, and there was a long queue in front of the Shrine of Lujan, the diocese of that bishop there, and there was a young man in the queue, all modern with tattoos And … he came to tell me what was happening in his life. He had a big, difficult problem. ‘ And [he asked me] what would you do? So I told my mother about this and my mother said to me: ‘Go to the Virgin Mary and she will tell you what you must do.’ Here was a woman who had the gift of counsel. She did not know how to solve her son’s problems but she indicated the right way: ‘Go to Our Lady and she’ll tell you.’ This is the gift of counsel. Do not say, ‘Do this …’. Let the Spirit speak . And that woman, humble, simple, gave her son the truest, most beautiful advice, because this young man said to me: ‘I looked upon Our Lady and I heard that I need to do this, this, this.’ I did not have to say a word. It all came from my mother, the Virgin Mary and the young man. This is the gift of counsel. You mothers who have this gift, ask for this gift for your children: the gift of being able to counsel your children . It is a gift from God.”
“Dear friends, Psalm 16 invites us to pray with these words:” I bless the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart exhorts me. I keep the LORD always before me; with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken” (vv. 7-8) . May the Spirit can always instill in our hearts and fill us with the certainty of his consolation and peace! Always seek the gift of counsel . Thank you.”
At the end of the General Audience, the Pope recalled that tomorrow the Church raises the Prayer of “Petition” to Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii: “The Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin will travel to that famous shrine. I invite everyone to invoke the intercession of Mary, so that the Lord grant mercy, and peace to the Church and to the whole world. I commend in particular to our Mother the young, the sick and newlyweds who are present here today, and I urge everyone in this month of May, to pray the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Below please find the English language summary of the Holy Father’s catechesis:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of counsel. Through this gift, God enlightens our hearts and directs our thoughts, words and actions in accordance with his saving will. By leading us to Jesus, and through him to the Father, the Holy Spirit guides us in our daily interaction with others and enables us to make right decisions in the light of faith. Through the gift of counsel, we also grow in the virtue of prudence, learning to overcome our self-centredness and to see all things with the eyes of Christ. The gift of counsel, like all spiritual gifts, needs to be cultivated through prayer, by which we become attuned to the voice of the Spirit and conformed to the heart of Christ. Nor does this gift enrich us as individuals alone; the Spirit also counsels us through the lives and experiences of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Today, as we give thanks for the gift of counsel, let us seek to support one another along the path of faith, as we seek to be ever more docile to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Korea, the Philippines, China, India, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. God bless you all!