Open Your Hearts to the Gifts & Fruits of the Spirit

Once again, a parishioner, imitating the persistence of the widow in the Gospel seeking justice, has asked me to encourage the clergy and laity to adopt the devotion of bowing one’s head at the name of Jesus, a practice I was taught in 2nd grade! It is certainly not a new devotion, and Pope St. John Paul II re-introduced the optional memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 3. The month of January is traditionally dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus due to the fact that eight days after Christmas, January 1, commemorated the naming of the child Jesus, his circumcision, and the first shedding of his blood and Our Lady’s purification.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which currently governs celebrations of the Mass, number 275, states, “A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.” So, in addition to mentioning the Trinity, Jesus, and Our Lady, the saint of the day also is acknowledged with a bow of the head.


In the 13th century it was decreed “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.” Maybe St. Paul had his own persistent widow who pestered him when he wrote in the letter to the Philippians 2: 9-10: God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” and in bowing one’s head at the Holy Name of Jesus, we counteract the many abuses to the Holy Name when it is used in cursing. How sad it is that the Holy Name is often used as a curse. Let us counteract such abuse by a simple, reverent bow of the head!


This week, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension, we turn to the example of the Early Church and await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in prayerful anticipation. Let us recall the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and open our hearts to the gifts we need the most at any particular time:

Wisdom: to despise the perishable things of this world, and love the things that are eternal; Understanding: to enlighten my mind to comprehend as fully as possible the mysteries of the faith; Counsel: that I make choices that please God and help me to gain heaven; Fortitude: that I may have the courage to overcome all obstacles to my salvation; Knowledge: that I may know myself and my sinfulness so to be enlightened in the ways of virtue for daily living; Piety: that I may have a love for the things of God, such as a reverence for Holy Mass and Adoration, Confession, the rosary, and devotions to particular saints; Fear of the Lord: that I may be so filled with loving reverence toward God, aware of His many blessings to me, that I fear displeasing Him by sin. So, what gift of the Holy Spirit are you in need of at this particular moment?

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance. These too are so important, especially as we relate with others. The Catechism reminds us, “The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make us docile in following the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1830). We receive these gifts at baptism and these gifts are then sealed and strengthened through the Sacrament of Confirmation. Let us pray for all those who will be confirmed this coming year and for those who were received into the Church at the Easter Vigil: May all of us live in the life of the Holy Spirit. “Come, Holy Spirit.”

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.”

Published in the May 10, 2024 issue of The Mirror.
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