Last week, this column commented on the appreciation of nature as reflecting the beauty of God. This aspect of the Christian life, and in fact of spirituality in general, is one application of the gift of the Holy Spirit that we call knowledge. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, as listed in Isiah 11 and paragraphs 1830-1831 of the Catechism, are: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Given initially at Baptism, and then fully at Confirmation, they are ways in which we are able to live the Christian life at an elevated level, a life guided by the Holy Spirit. In fact, the word “inspired” comes from the Latin phrase “in spiritu,” or “in the spirit.” The gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to live at this inspired level. As Pope Leo XIII said in his 1897 encyclical on the Holy Spirit Divinum Illud Munus (That Divine Office), “By means of these gifts the soul is excited and encouraged to attain the evangelical beatitudes which, like the flowers that come forth in the spring time are the signs and harbingers of eternal beatitude.”
The gift of knowledge in particular enables us to see created things in the light of heaven. The Latin word for this gift is “scientia,” from which we get the term science, the study of the created world of nature. And the gift of knowledge enables us to value the created world as given by God for the improvement of humanity. Thus, spiritual knowledge leads us to respect nature and appreciate the study of it without worshiping its forces or seeing them as the final reality. With regard to the time, wealth, and the abilities we have received, spiritual knowledge helps us to understand them as gifts God has entrusted to us for a time on this earth to show our creative goodness in preparation for taking our place in a realm where each person receives great glory. The parables of the talents and the gold coins that Jesus told impart this message. See Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27. In short, the gift of knowledge from above gives us an appreciation of this world, but a freedom from its domination, the sense that material things and are given for a short time that we may become worthy of the lasting treasures of the new heavens and the new earth.