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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

The Fruits
of the Holy Spirit

 

Reverence for the Mass  |  Spiritual Counsels  |  Books  |  About CSF

 
Love | Joy | Peace | Patience | Kindness | Generosity | Faithfulness | Gentleness | Self-control

 
MANY individuals who seek to live a holy life, and who therefore want to make prayer a more important part of their lives, wonder how they can tell if their experiences in prayer are truly inspiration from God or whether they are mere psychological delusions.

Well, the best approach here is to look to the “fruits” of the prayer—that is, the effects that prayer produces in your life—and ask if those fruits are the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

So, what are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? In Galatians 5:22–23 Saint Paul names them: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[1]

Let’s look, then, at how each of these fruits might manifest in a soul that receives divine graces through prayer.

  

Note carefully, though, that your spiritual life will not produce fruits unless it has strong roots growing in the good soil of detachment from the world, and dedicated contemplation of the Mysteries of the Faith, and constant prayer for spiritual purification.

  

 
LOVE


Christ Himself told us, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Now, you can lay down your life in several ways.

You can lay down your life literally by dying a physical death to protect someone from a physical death. You can also lay down your life literally—as a martyr, for example—in order to save someone from the scandal of a loss of faith.

You can lay down your life figuratively by sacrificing something dear to you—money, time, or labor, for example—in order to help others in the struggle for their own salvation.

In all of these cases it can be seen that true love is a matter of seeking the good of another, even at your own expense.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, therefore, it should be strengthening you to make the difficult sacrifices of love.

Personal Meditation: Today, most of us wouldn’t even lay down our TVs for Christ, let alone our lives. So how often do you mistakenly believe that love is the unconditional acceptance of anything? How often have you condoned sin in this way, rather than make the sacrifices necessary to seek the true good of others (i.e., their repentance of their sins)?

 
JOY


In the Letter of James we are told, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2–3). Moreover, Saint Francis of Assisi said that “if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring” and “if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him . . . here . . . is perfect joy” (The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi).

Real spiritual joy, therefore, refers to the ability to tolerate insult and injury from someone without hating him, in the hope that he might eventually repent his sins and attain the everlasting joy of Heaven, wherein there is no hate.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, it should be strengthening you to tolerate joyfully the trials and tribulations necessary to cleanse you of all that is not love.

Personal Meditation: How often do you mistakenly believe that joy is a matter of feeling good about yourself and having everything go smoothly and pleasantly? How often do you think only of “your way,” rather than thinking of God’s way: not triumph and control over your enemies and the pain they cause you but the willingness to endure suffering, as Christ did, in the hope of saving your enemies from their own sins?

 
PEACE


At the birth of Christ, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest and, on earth, peace to men of good will” (Luke 2:14). Now, who are “men of good will”? Well, the only good will is God’s will, so “men of good will” are those persons, both male and female, who do God’s will, keeping His commandments in reverent obedience and living a holy lifestyle. They are a special sort of people, the ones who pray to the Father, “Thy will be done”—and really mean it in their hearts. Furthermore, because they really mean it in their hearts, there isn’t anything they fear and there isn’t anything they envy, and so their hearts are at peace even in the midst of a corrupt world.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, it should be filling your heart with the peace of willing to do God’s will at all times in all things.

Personal Meditation: How often are you preoccupied with thoughts of “my” will, rather than “Thy” will, thus getting caught in the mistaken belief that peace can be achieved through politics and protest?

 
PATIENCE


In the Second Letter of Peter we are told that “the Lord does not delay His promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Patience, therefore, has one purpose: holding off condemnation in the hope of repentance that leads to salvation.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, it should be teaching you to endure indifference, ingratitude, and contempt as Christ did: not with hot-headed frustration but with a calm refusal to hate.

Personal Meditation: How often do you want to “get rid” of problems and obstacles—be they things or people—rather than seek to understand and remedy the underlying cause of the difficulties? When you are feeling confused or helpless, how often do you become impatient with others, trying to cast the blame on them and control them, rather than turn to God in prayer for guidance and strength to face the unknown?

 
KINDNESS


In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul addresses many different issues, one of which is the basic human tendency to be judgmental—that is, to want the satisfaction of seeing others condemned for their sins. Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that, because everyone will be judged by God, we all should be grateful for the opportunity to repent our sins before it is too late. Thus he says, “Or do you hold His priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

Now, condemnation for the unrepentant will come, but it will come from God alone. Still, God looks on us with kindness—that is, with tender-hearted concern for us—according to the possibility that every soul can be saved; therefore, we, too, should treat others with kindness, not condemnation. “See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in His kindness; otherwise, you, too, will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, it should be leading you to repentance for your sins and to a tender-hearted concern for others, that they might be led to their own repentance.

Personal Meditation: How often do you deny the reality of sin by falling into the mistaken belief that kindness means unconditional acceptance of anything?

 
GENEROSITY


Christ related the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard to make a point about God’s generosity. When the owner of the vineyard paid all the workers the same wage for the day, regardless of when each man began work that day, some workers grumbled. The owner rebuked them, “What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:14–16).

Generosity, therefore, has its basis in the Creator’s freely sharing His creation with us, that all repentant sinners might share fully in His love, regardless of whether repentance occurs early in life or late in life.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, it should be teaching you to experience divine love as absolute and to rejoice in the divine love that others experience, regardless of their spiritual progress.

Personal Meditation: How often do you envy others for their spiritual progress or look down on those who have made less progress in faith than you?

 
FAITHFULNESS


In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul, speaking about how the Jews had been entrusted with messages from the prophets, asks, “What if some were unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar . . .” (Romans 3:3–4). In other words, God remains true to His promises regardless of our behavior.

Therefore, our faithfulness must mirror God’s faithfulness; we must refuse to waver from the truth no matter what happens to us.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, you should be a true conservative, preserving and defending the divine mysteries of the Church, regardless of the infidelity of others.

Personal Meditation: How often do you follow the crowd because you fear being left out or rejected? How often do you betray your faith for the sake of worldly reward? How often do you forget Christ’s words of warning: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Luke 9:25).

 
GENTLENESS


In his First Letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul points out his behavior as a visiting evangelist: “. . . we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). In his First Letter to Timothy, Paul says that a bishop’s behavior should be “not aggressive, but gentle” (1 Timothy 3:3). Together, these verses tell us that gentleness results from a sensitivity to fragility; like a good mother’s caring protection, there should be no abrupt or forceful movements, no pushing, no arguing, no manipulation.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, then, you should be led into a nurturing attitude to others that always tries to understand their fragility so as to guide their development at their own pace.

Personal Meditation: How often do you become frustrated when others don’t do what you want them to do? How often do you try to manipulate others with shame—that is, to attempt to make them feel that something is wrong with their being, rather than with their behavior? How often do you become argumentative when others don’t do what you think they should do?

 
SELF-CONTROL


In his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI refers to the fact that the ancient pagan world lacked any hope of a meaningful future. He points to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 where Saint Paul makes reference to this fact in emphasizing the Christian basis for hope.

Now, in a similar way, Paul’s preaching also made use of another fact of the pagan world: its preoccupation with self-indulgence. Thus we read in Acts that when Paul spoke to the Roman governor Felix about faith in Christ Jesus, Paul focused on “righteousness and self-restraint and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).

Of these three concepts, we might expect to hear about righteousness and the coming judgment because they are core concepts in the Gospels. But self-restraint—or self-control— seems to be a Pauline reflection on the actual world around him.

In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul plays on this idea of self-restraint by remarking that, if athletes can exercise discipline—or self-restraint—in order to achieve something that is purely frivolous, Christians should be able to exercise discipline to achieve something of the highest and most meaningful value.

F YOUR PRAYER is truly effective, therefore, you should be led into a desire to discipline and restrain your own self-satisfaction for the sake of the highest desire of all: to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

Personal Meditation: How often do you let your own personal desires take control of your life? Are you overweight? Are you addicted to cigarettes or alcohol or drugs or erotic pleasure or video games or . . .? You may have prayers on your lips, but where is your true desire?

 

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Notes.

1. Church Tradition lists twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1832).

 

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