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Gift of Counsel

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Fr. Hardon:

We still have two full days, remember? Friday and Saturday and even part of Sunday. Remember the Gift of the Holy Spirit, I'll identify first in the prophet Isaiah. And the Gift of Counsel, is the first gift mentioned in Isaiah. Evidently, an important gift. We're talking about the Gift of Counsel. Christ is man and the supernatural life. Where Christ is man, I think we've said this, at sight of divine grace, Christ had, how many of the theological virtues did Christ have?

Sisters:  One.

Fr. Hardon:

Don't forget, one. And our Lord had the Gift of the Holy Spirit. From His graces, that's what St. John tells us, we have all received. We said that wisdom is the highest of the gifts and Fear of the Lord is the lowest, but the most basic. Unless we're talking, we're talking about the Fear of the Lord, but if you have Fear of the Lord, you will not have or practice the other gifts. Now, what is the Gift of Counsel? I keep using the verb, perfects. The Gift of Counsel, perfects the Virtue of Prudence. In other words, we hear the gift corresponds to a particular virtue. This gift belongs to the virtue of prudence. What does it do? The Gift of Counsel enables a person to judge promptly, correctly and, as it were, intuitively. What should be done in a difficult situation? Repeat. The Gift of Counsel perfects, elevates, the virtue of prudence. I may be the person to judge the mind, to judge promptly, correctly, and, as it were, intuitively. Because, remember, these are Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Uhm, how we should act, especially in difficult situations. Some years ago, I was asked to give a television program. In my hurry to get, I was in a church, a crowded church. I spent hours, many hours, writing out what I was to tell the people. I came to the place where the television program was to be given, and I forget my notes. Every body was ready except I. Oh, God, please, please enlighten me! I believe I have the Gift of Counsel, please, put it to work. I spoke one hour, and I must say, nobody walked out. Oh, how we need the Gift of Counsel. I would like to compare the Virtue of Prudence with the Gift of Counsel. And I have three levels of comparison. For prudence, we reflect, we think, before we act. Remember, the Gift of Counsel does not excuse us from being prudent. Am I clear. But, the Gift of Counsel is more than just prudence. When I'm prudent, I reflect, I think before hand. The Gift of Counsel, instantly, I know what I should do. There are situations in all of our lives, I know in my life, that when we have time to…well…think about it. Although, I think I should tell you this Sisters. Whenever I receive a telephone call, I always, I always start praying. But of course, never out loud. Well, a distant state, or out of this Country. Out of this Country, my Country. I've never met the person. They call me up and give me their problem, and I've never met the person, may never meet the person this side of eternity. They want me to make a decision. I trust the Holy Spirit will enlighten me. Am I making sense Sisters?

Sisters: Yes, Father.

Fr. Hardon:

This Gift of Counsel is real! Secondly, with the Virtue of Prudence, I analyze. In other words, I, well, I look into the situation. I study one side, I study the other side. And the more important the action, the more, well, analysis or reflection I should give before I act, in the case of the Gift of Counsel, I follow Christ's teaching, and this is very important. Our Lord says "will they deliver you up". Remember? When they are questioning you, putting you on trial. Testing you. Well, lets say persecuting you. Then, Christ says "Take no thought on what you are to say, it shall be given to you what you are to say". Am I clear? In other words, there are emergencies in all of our lives, and I cannot tell you how important this is to live, and I will even go on to say, survive! Because, you know, you've got to make a decision. But I'm not ready. Well, trust the Holy Spirit, but watch it! You must, you must be willing to do God's will. That is why the Gift of Counsel is priceless! And on one condition, that my, my disposition of soul, I want always to do God's will. I'm faced with an emergency. And let me tell you, our Lord, you know told many stories. There are 72 parables in the gospels. When I was teaching at the State University, when I was hired, I was the first Catholic Priest, hired by a State University to teach, to teach Catholic theology at a State University. After five years, when I finished, my State University, I was the last Catholic Priest, who has taught a Catholic faith in a State University. Well, the third semester, second year of my teaching, of my teaching of the faculty. There were seven faculty members, who informed, there is a special meeting of the faculty tonight. So, whatever appointments I had, I canceled and went to the meeting. So I got there at the meeting and at first, nobody was saying anything. So I asked the Dean, the Head of the department. "What's this meeting about?" He told me "The meeting is all about you"! Well! What's wrong? I'll never forget his answer. Hardon, you are so....blankety, blank, sure of yourself! You know what blankety, blank, means...he used a curse word. "Sure of yourself....what's wrong with being sure of yourself?" (Laughter) The real problem was this Sister's....There were 7 full time faculty members. All fully paid. And I had, I had, more students in my classes, than all of the other six professors put together! They didn't like it! Those students mostly were not Catholic. They wanted to come to the classes that I was teaching! There's a man who is sure of himself, and why not! You've got the truth! Well, what is there to question? I wrote a book after I finished. And I called the book "The Hungry Generation". Got a copy Sister's? Read it! People are hungry for the truth, they're starving for the truth and they have no one to teach them.

The Apostles, especially St. Peter, remember, where there were questions immediately, they didn't consult each other...oh, "John, what do you think I should say"? Oh no...they knew immediately. Remember? On the spot. Now the experience. I've got just two Saints that are identified. St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Joan of Arc. Who are, by the way, very uneducated women. And Catherine of Sienna, is now, as you know, a Doctor of the church! Did you know that just shortly before her death, she could not, did you know this? She could not read or write. Did you know that? Well, the Holy Spirit enlightened her mind. The secret, of course, is to always be open, open to doing God's will, and He will tell us what to do. Let's go on....this Gift of Counsel, is not only counseling myself, it is also the Gift of Counsel for others. But listen...this Gift of Counsel that is given to us, as we believe, by the Holy Spirit, is meant both, that we might know how we are to act. And that, as I said, immediately, the Holy Spirit will provide. It is also how to counsel others. And how precious this is, Sister's, that we, we ourselves, knew, able to give counsel to others. As not really advise, this word counsel, is not really advise. This word is a Gift of the Holy Spirit. However, I'm not finished, because, this Gift of Counsel, is indeed meant, both for ourselves, and for others. But listen. This Gift would be only as valuable and useful for counseling others as we counsel ourselves, first! This Gift of the Holy Spirit is first, and then for us. What should I do in a given situation? And I want to add...."And we only as good counselors, to use a very human language, you're only as effective, in using this gift for others, as we are faithful in following this gift in our own lives".

This therefore, is the Gift of the How. In other words, counsel is a definite, specific, particular, directive. Holy Spirit is non-vague. And the spiritual life, Sister's, is not lived in vague generalities. Specifically, concretely, and trust the Holy Spirit. And the more closely we are united with Him, the more we can go through life and do the most humanly impossible things, wisely and correctly, because we are being guided by the Spirit of God. You know, just a word about the necessity. The Gift of Counsel is especially necessary for...for what? For giving others direction and giving ourselves discrimination. In other words, we are only as discriminating as we use the Gift of Counsel, as God has given to us. Who needs the Gift of Counsel? You might say everybody. But my notes say, especially, bishops, Priests, and superiors. Without this Gift, there is no assurance of doing what God wants. In otherwords, without the Gift of Counsel, there would be nothing but confusion. In the few minutes left, I can give you a few recommendations on how to grow in this Gift of Counsel. First....deep personal humility. The more humble a person is, the more active and effective will be the Gift of Counsel. I've said this before. I'll repeat it. It must be thirty years ago. I read this book by St. Vincent Ferrer. F-E-R-R-E-R. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican Saint. On Christian perfection. St. Vincent wrote, a little book, and he wanted to grow in humility. Never, never, for one moment, cherish a self admiring thought. Never admire yourself in your own eyes. As I've told so many Missionaries of Charity, Sister's, you don't need mirrors, you've got a mind! And the mind is the most dangerous mirror. In other words, think about yourself, admiring you. Oh, I watched a woman on a plane. And I timed hour in a half! She used rouge, lipstick, a comb...(laughter)....But Sister's, the most dangerous pride, is not the pride of how we look in the mirror. The most dangerous pride is how we look into ourselves. I admire smart I must be! (laughter) "Who would publish so many books? Oh, Fr. Hardon must be an intelligent man". Sister's, I say this, and I know who I'm talking to. (laughter). I have books on my shelf, back in Detroit, that I published. Sometimes, I take the book off the shelf and look at something in the book. But, I must have a good reason. If I don't have a good reason, I mean this! I confess it as a sin. Am I clear Sister's?

Sisters: Yes, Father.

Fr. Hardon:

How to culminate or grow in this Gift of Counsel. Develop the sense of, well, of my own weakness, my own weakness and ignorance. Sister's, you've got to grow. What a statement! You've gotta grow. In learning, realizing how stupid and weak we are! And it takes time. How do we grow in this Gift of Counsel? We keep telling our Lord. "Show me oh Lord, your ways and teach me your paths". "Show me oh Lord, your ways and teach me your paths". In other words, keep asking our Lord. "Lord, tell me what to do next. What to think next". Because the most important part of our lives, Sister's, is our thoughts. Remember the line that we had.....Every thought, unless we control it, becomes a desire. Every desire, unless we control it, becomes an action. Every action, unless we control it, becomes a habit. And, it's also six o'clock. Shall we say the Angelus? Do we have a bell?

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.

Sisters:  And She conceived by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Hardon:  Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Sisters:  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Fr. Hardon:  Behold the Handmaid of the Lord.

Sisters:  Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Fr. Hardon:  Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Sisters:  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Fr. Hardon:  And the Word was made flesh.

Sisters:  And dwelt among us.

Fr. Hardon:  Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Sisters:  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Fr. Hardon:  Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

Sisters:  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

All:  Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sisters:  Thank you Father.

Fr. Hardon: And Sister's, again, the box is empty. Is it empty? (laughter)

Fr. Hardon:

If there is one dominant theme throughout the Lenten season, it is that Christ had his enemies during his public ministry, during his public ministry, Jesus is nothing, but good! He healed the sick, the lame, He restored sight to the blind, He even restored life to the dead. He preached nothing but the truth. And He practiced nothing but charity. Why? The hardest question to answer, and only God really knows the answer. Why? Why was Jesus, opposed, persecuted, and finally put to death? Was it because He practiced too much charity or was it because He worked miracles? No. Because He preached the truth. The world does not want to hear the truth. Twice was, the Son of the Living God. And He told the people just as much. The Father and I are One. He told the people they were to be converted. To practice humility, chastity, patience. You would think that his Contemporaries would have repented and humbly follow Jesus. Some did! A small handful. The majority, I repeat, one Lenten gospel after another reminds us of the opposition that Jesus faced until finally, He was betrayed by one of His own Disciples and crucified. That's one side. The other side is. It's now 2000 years since Christ came into the world. And the story is the same. You tell people the truth. You tell them to practice, I repeat, humility, patience, chastity. You tell married people, only two in one flesh. You tell men, if you even look at a woman lustfully, you've already committed adultery with her in your heart. You tell people to love their enemies. Pray for those who hate you. You tell people, if they strike you on one cheek, turn the other, and you've got a whole science now developed. Psychiatry. Sigmund Freud, the Founder of Psychiatry, in one book after another says, "Those who believe that our life here on earth is only a pre-condition for a life in eternity". Oh, psychotics. Sometimes I begin to lecture by addressing the people "My dear fellow psychotics". We believe, the unborn life in the mothers womb, is a human being. We believe that's murder. We now have a murderer as President of the United States. Needless to say, what happened to Christ, we should expect in our day. We are not to expect to be accepted by the world, because, no less than in Christ's time, the world does not want the truth. Here Sister's are Missionaries of Charity. Well, you'll be only asked authentic Missionaries of Charity as you're Missionaries of the Truth. And by now, so many, including those in the church, how well I know. Any thing to please the people. To be accepted by the world. Any thing! Even compromise on the truth. Lord Jesus, you told us, "if he had persecute me, he will also persecute you". And, this, now this needs to be said. This is the mark of being an authentic Father of Christ. Proclaiming what Christ taught and paying the consequences. Not being accepted by the world. Lord Jesus, give us, be beg you, the grace to know the truth, to live the truth, and to proclaim the truth. And if like You, the world, well, takes our life, because we testified to the truth. That Jesus, would be the greatest joy of our life. To die for the truth. But you know us. You know how weak we are! What compromises we are! What conformist we are! How terrified we are, not to be accepted by others! Give us, we beg you, the grace to follow Your example and live the truth, proclaim the truth, and if it is Your will to die for the truth, Amen. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All:   Amen.

Fr. Hardon:

Does St. Paul say that we fill up with our own flesh what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ is there anything that was lacking? Here we must say, yes, there was something lacking. In other words, as we've said before, we use the word objectively and subjectively. Objectively, we were relieved by Christs' suffering and death. What do we mean? We mean, that by His death on the cross, Our Lord gained, merited, won, all past tense. He won all the graces that a thousand worlds need to be saved. But, we shall not be saved, unless we cooperate with those graces. Christ did His part. God became man, as we've said many times, God became man mainly to have a human will, so that with His human will, He was, and I repeat, win, gain, earn, all the graces that the human race needs to be saved. But, if God uses human, human will, so he could freely offer Himself on the cross. We must use our free will and use our free will in two ways. Use our free will in obtaining the graces, obtaining the graces that Christ won. And how do we obtain those graces? In three ways. By prayer, by the sacraments and by doing good works. Three basic ways in which we obtain grace from God. As the first part of our responsibility. The second is not just getting the graces, not just obtaining the graces. We must put those graces to use. In other words, we must cooperate with the graces. And that the expression sounds strange, that's what St. Paul means when he says that we are to make up what is lacking. What's lacking? Our cooperation! Perhaps the tenth time, we are repeating. We are Catholics. And for l5 centuries, until the Protestant churches, as they call themselves, broke with the Catholic faith. (Rooster crows)

Fr. Hardon:   Could you help that? Is that an animal?

Audience:   Ya, it's a rooster, Father.

Fr. Hardon:   Put him into custody..put him into custody. (laughter)

What is lacking, is our obtaining the grace and then using the grace that Christ won for us by his death on Calvary. And that means we must use our free will. Two free wills redeem the world. The free will of Christ, who became man, to have a free will and our free will.

Where are the children not baptized, if their parents have not received the sacrament of marriage?

The churches law is very simple. The church does not encourage the baptism of children for parents, watch it, who will not raise their children in the Catholic faith. However, and here, and don't forget. It is a mistake. It is contrary to the teachings of the church, to not baptize children who's parents who are not living, say, in a valid marriage, or their parents are not practicing their faith. Provided somebody, somebody, raises those children in the faith. It does not have to be the parents. Am I clear? Even though parents have not been reared in the faith or are not living in a valid marriage. Normally, of course, parents are the first and primary teaching their children. But not only, that's what sponsors are for. And sponsors are not really symbolic persons. They have a grave (error). A sponsor has a responsibility by the, on the mortal sin, to see the child or the children for whom that person has been a sponsor at baptism. Am I clear? You need not be the parents. Obviously. And normally, it should be the parents. But it need not be the parents. Provided someone will raise those children in the Catholic faith. The church herself encourages those children to be raised as Catholics, even though their parents are not living or practicing their faith. Thank you.

And now, I think we've almost finished the Gift of Knowledge. Have we begun the Gift of Counsel?

Sisters:   Yes, Father.

Fr. Hardon:

Ok, ok. Now, I think Sister's, we have pretty well covered the Gift of Counsel. And we were talking, I believe, before we closed, about the necessity of the Gift of Counsel. Especially, in the more important decisions of life. There is need for discrimination. And the problem, as you know, now a days, is that what even 30, 40, years ago. Pick up any book, with an imprimatur, and you were safe. Go to a Priest, almost any Priest, and you were sure you were getting good advise. But, that is no longer true! And that is why we must depend, and I mean this, we must depend more than ever before, on the Gift of the Holy Spirit to counsel us. To tell us what we should do in a given situation. This includes the assurance, the confidence that we need that what we are doing is pleasing to God. And over the years, the people say how they want a spiritual director. "Father, will you be my spiritual director"? I never say in so many words "no". I don't want to disappoint her. But, there is no way that any Priest, a Priest who is faithful to his own Priestly commitment could possibly call the number of people who would want his advise. In my office in Detroit. This is about three year ago. I had an answering system. And each person who called, there was a number. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. They would leave a message and of course, expect me to call them back. One day I told the Secretary at 9:00 in the morning. "There's so much work to do today, let's turn off the answering machine, so that people can't call, give their name, and what ever they are calling about". And then, I promised to call them back. This is not unusual. But that day, from 9:00 in the morning, till 5:00 in the evening, when I turned the machine back on, there were 47 telephone calls. And some very serious situations. I have a woman, who believes she's possessed. And I have not talked to her since I've come to Haiti, but she attempted suicide about 10 days ago. And wants to be exercised. But I'm not sure she's possessed. Though I have dealt with possessed people. But any one person like that, that can be hours, a day even, one or two days a week. For example, I couldn't behave. I have all kinds of unfinished business. Now, I had to consult the Holy Spirit and ask Him to give me the Counsel. "Should I come to Haiti"? And your Superiors asked me if I would come to Haiti for two weeks. This week and all next week. After prayer, I called up your Superior and said, "Thanks, I can come for only one week". You follow my....each one of us, there are so many things to be done and not just quantity, but delicate situations. Sister's, I cannot share here with you more important than to depend on the Holy Spirit. Consult Him, ask Him, "What should I do." And then trust Him! Now you have your Superiors and thank God, your Superiors are still, well, Superiors. In many Communities, where they used to call Superiors are no longer Superiors. They never tell the Religious what to do. They consult you. "Do you want to do this? Do you want to do that?" But our lives, all of our lives, are too delicate and especially they are too interior. I think I should say this too. The deepest decisions of our lives, Sister's, are not external decisions. "What do I do, say at ll:00 o'clock? What kind of work do I do? Or how should I do it?" The deepest decisions are deep down inside of our souls. And these decisions, in most cases, no human being can tell you what to do. Am I still making sense, Sister's? There must be an intimacy with God. A closeness of the Holy Spirit. And living as much as we can in His presence, so that the decisions we make, interiorly, are to be made on the, what a cheap word, is not advise, the Holy Spirit does not give just advise. The Holy Spirit gives directives. And that is what we call the Gift of Counsel. And in women's Communities, I mean the good ones that want to live an authentically religious life. For example, I've been hearing confessions on well, what is it, 5:30 to 6:30, and there are, shall we say 35. We have two days left. I would like to, well, be available for each one of you. But, my conscience tells me if someone has a question to discuss, I will talk it over in the fashion of confession. Which means, someone else does not have the time. Am I clear? Some Priest just are not that available. What I may do, I'll consult with your Superior. What I may do, is add, even today, at least a half an hour or maybe one hour for confessions, if you want to talk something over. Ok? But, as a last analysis, our first principle and primary Spiritual Director, is the Holy Spirit. Ok. And that finishes the four Gifts of the Holy Spirit pertaining to the mind. And now we start the three Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which belong to the will. And what are they? Who remembers?

Sisters: Piety, Fortitude,

Fr. Hardon: So, whatever sequence you use. But, I've found it useful, for Thursday, it is the Gift of....

Sisters:  Fortitude.

Fr. Hardon:   And Friday?

Sisters:  Piety.

Fr. Hardon:  And Saturday?

Fr. Hardon:

So, we will now talk about the Gift of Fortitude. (Pause) All the Gifts are here, but they're not in sequence. So the first of the Gift belonging to the will is the Gift of Fortitude. First of all, by way of introduction…

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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