The Theological Virtue of Faith – Part 3 of 4

Father Pegues continues his discussion of the virtue of faith by showing how four of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel—assist the virtue of faith.

The gift of understanding assists in three ways. First, it “succours the virtue of faith in knowing God, by making our mind, under the direct action of the Holy Ghost, discern the sense of the words which express the divine messages, and of all propositions pertaining thereto, so as, provided they are not beyond the reach of our minds, to understand them in their full meaning.” Second, “if it is a question of mysteries this gift helps us to hold them securely in spite of all difficulties.” Third, it “helps us in the greatest degree in the matter of behaviour, because it throws light on the reasons of supernatural good that are contained in the revealed truth that we hold by faith; thus does the gift of understanding enlighten the mind, in order that man’s will made divine by charity may be drawn to act well as it behooves.”

“By the gift of knowledge, the faithful soul, under the direct action of the Holy Ghost, judges with absolute certainty and infallibly, not by the natural process of reasoning, but by instinct as it were and intuitively, the true character of created things in their relation to faith according as they are to be believed, or according as they are directive of our conduct. Thus immediately man sees in creatures what is and what is not, in harmony with the First Truth which is the object of faith and the last end of our acts.”

“Faith proposes to man’s mind under the form of propositions uttered by God certain truths of which the principal surpass his understanding. Some of these truths have reference to God alone, others to creatures, and others to man’s conduct. If man by faith assents to these truths as it behooves, he can never live these truths by good behaviour unless he fully understand them; and it is the proper office of the gift of understanding to make man’s mind understand these truths fully, whereas the gift of wisdom enlightens the mind with regard to truths that have reference to the things of God, the gift of knowledge to truths relating to creatures, and the gift of counsel to truths relating to man’s behaviour.”

Finally, Father Pegues makes a distinction between faith under the Old Law and faith under the New Law. He writes: “In the Old Testament the mysteries relating to Jesus Christ existed only in the state of promise as it were or of figure, and it was reserved to Jesus Christ Himself to reveal to men in their plenitude the two essential mysteries of our faith, namely, those of the Trinity and the Incarnation. As regards these two mysteries, [people under the Old Law] were not bound to believe anything explicitly; but they believed them in an implicit way by believing in the perfection of God and in His repeated promises of salvation.” This was “sufficient for them to be able to make an act of supernatural faith.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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