The Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

To understand the Spiritual Gifts we need to understand the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) provides the following insights:

The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may “bear much fruit.”
— Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2000, para. 737

Christ and the Holy Spirit with St. Peter

Christ and the Holy Spirit with St. Peter the Apostle

Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church’s sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body.
— CCC, 1997, para. 739

These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit.
— CCC, 1997, para. 740

These mighty works of God — the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit — are manifest in our lives as Fruits, Gifts and Charisms.

The Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Now concerning the spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed.
-— New American Bible: Revised Edition (NABRE), 2011, 1 Corinthians 12:1

Spiritual Gifts

St. Paul wants all of us to be aware of our personal spiritual gifts. At baptism we begin a special relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit which grows every day. Baptism opens each of us to spiritual gifts, talents or charisms that help in the building up of the Body of Christ on earth. When we are baptized, we receive His Holy Spirit in a deep and spiritual way. On Pentecost Sunday, Peter repeated Joel’s words, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all.” Acts 2:17. From the day of Pentecost, the Church has celebrated and administered Baptism. Throughout our life our baptism is still working. Its waters of refreshment, love and service are still giving us life today.
Archdiocese of St. Louis, Spiritual Gifts Inventory

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Fruits of the Spirit

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
— NABRE, 2011, Galatians 5:22-23a

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”
— CCC, 2000, para. 1832

Description of the Fruits of the Spirit

Charity or Love.  “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick- tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  (NABRE, 2000, 1 Cor 13: 4-8a)

Joy (chara) is eternal and is rooted in God.  It is the happiness found in union with the Lord.

Peace refers to dealing justly with the world, as well as remaining in good conscience before God.

Patience is also known as long-suffering.  It refers to the tendency to endure temptation and suffering without it leading to sin.

Kindness, also know as benignity, is the tendency toward acting kindly and doing good.

The ability to live life in accord with the will of God.

Generosity is an openness to sharing one’s own gifts and goods with others.  It is the opposite of both gluttony and envy.

It is also known as mildness.  It is the tendency to allow provocations to go unanswered.

Is standing strong in faith and strength against diversion away from faith and virtue.

Freedom from vanity and boastfulness.  Regard for decency of behavior, speech and dress.  It includes simplicity and moderation.

Ability to control ones emotions and conduct.  Calls for a self-disciplined life following Christ’s example of being in the world, but not of the world.

Purity, virginity and virtuous in character.  The union between and woman in marriage is sacred.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
— NABRE, 2000. Isaiah 11: 2-3a

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.  They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.  They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.
— CCC, 2000, para. 1830-1831

Description of the Gifts of the Spirit

Resolves a problem that has been identified through a word of knowledge.

When hearing or reading, the subject matter becomes clear.

Empowers us to make decisions in our spiritual lives.  A small voice within, known as conscience or common sense guides our actions.

Strength or Fortitude
The power of strength to do the will of God.  Steadfastness, stick with it no matter how difficult.

Informs, warns or exposes hidden things.  Reveals the power of God in hidden things.

Knowing our relationship with God.  Not only wanting to serve Him but also needing to serve Him.

Fear of the Lord or Awe
Knowing the awesomeness of God and all of His greatness.

Charisms of the Holy Spirit

Charisms for Ordinary People

Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.

But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
— NABRE, 2000, 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-13

Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.
— CCC, 2000, para. 799

Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well.  They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.
— CCC, 2000, para. 800

It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary.  No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds.  “Their office (is) not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,” so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”
— CCC, 2000, para. 801

Communion of charisms. Within the communion of the Church, the Holy Spirit “distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” for the building up of the Church. Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
— CCC, 2000, para. 951

Description of the Charisms of the Spirit

Resolves a problem that has been identified through a word of knowledge.

Informs, warns, or exposes hidden things.  It reveals the power of God in hidden things.

The power to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what you ask for will happen.

A gift to build up, encourage, strengthen, make new or whole an individual or group.

Mighty Deeds — Direct intervention by the Holy Spirit in the natural order, i.e., instant healing or conversion.

An anointed communication from God to give encouragement, reproof, inspiration or guidance.

Discernment of Spirits
Allows one to distinguish between “spirits”, whether they are “good” or “evil” or whether it is the person’s own spirit at work.

Variety of Tongues
Using a special prayer language provided by the Holy Spirit for communications with God (Note: this charism is the only one that is for the use of the individual).

Interpretation of Tongues
The translation or interpretation of what was spoken by an individual in Tongues.

Characteristics of the Spiritual Gifts


  • The twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.
  • They are the manifestation that an individual has received the Holy Spirit’s gifts.
  • They are for the perfection of the individual.


  • The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the permanent dispositions which help us to live the Christian life and follow the promptings of the Spirit.
  • They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are for strengthening and building up the individual.


  • The nine Charisms are special graces of the Holy Spirit that are given to an individual specifically for the benefit of others people and to build up the Church.
  • These Charisms are stirred up within us through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit—the infilling of the Spirit.

The Charisms of the Holy Spirit

In the early Church, these gifts and Charisms were in active use by the Apostles for the good of people. We see the actions of the Holy Spirit and the power of His gifts throughout the Acts of the Apostles. Here is one example:

“While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples.  He said to them, ‘Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?’  They answered him, ‘We have never even heard that there is a holy Spirit.’  He said, ‘How were you baptized?’ They replied, ‘With the baptism of John.’  Paul then said, ‘John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul laid [his] hands on them, the holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  Altogether there were about twelve men.
— NABRE, 2000, Acts 19:1-7

It may surprise you to know that the gifts that Jesus gave through His Spirit to the Apostles are just as active today, as they were in the 1st century of our Church. God has not changed. Just as we pray the “Glory Be” prayer nothing has or will change with God.

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Thus, all of the Spiritual Gifts are available today, to the followers of Christ. More on that when we discuss the Baptism in the Spirit.