Front Row With Francis: The Gift of Counsel

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelPope Francis continues his catechesis at the General Audience  Wednesday morning in Saint Peter’s Square on gifts of the Holy Spirit.

After having examined wisdom and understanding the last two weeks, this week he discusses the often misunderstood gift of counsel. The pope reminds us that “we must make room for the Spirit, so that he can counsel us.”

The Pope begins by reminding his audience that mystical experiences are not just the property of the holy few, of the saints. He makes it clear in his opening remarks, that from the moment we  host God in “our heart, the Holy Spirit begins immediately to make us sensitive to his voice and to direct our thoughts, our sentiments and our intentions according to God’s heart”.

Reading the words of Pope Francis reminds me of how often this has been evident in my own life.  The Pope wants this life for all Catholics. He wants believers who have an interior prayer life and experience God as ” he leads us increasingly to turn our interior gaze on Jesus, as model of our way of acting and of relating to God the Father and to our brothers’.

Rather than reprimanding the modern Catholic by pointing out his lack of an interior spirituality, Pope Francis calls forth latent spirituality by expecting that his listeners are living the normal Christian life in the Spirit. He does not speak to the lowest common denominator, but challenges us to rise up to his expectations and activate the gift of counsel by listening and obeying the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Standing on the this expectation (that as Catholics we are living in communion with the Holy Spirit), Pope Francis encourages all Catholics to pray not only rote prayers “but also to pray with our own words. To pray to the Lord: “Lord, help me, counsel me, what must I do now?” And with prayer we make room for the Spirit to come to help us at that moment.’

The pope exhorts us to pray everywhere, even in public because “no one is aware when we pray in the bus, in the street: we pray in silence with our heart.”  He continues to explain intimacy with God, by telling us  exactly how to listen to the voice of the Spirit and follow his counsel.

The pope reminds us that a vibrant Church is built of saints who pray, who listen to the inner voice of the Spirit, but who are humble and open enough to hear the counsel of God “through the witness of their brothers”.  The gift of counsel is not simply a personal gift but it is a treasure for the entire Church, for the community of brothers and sisters.

Through stories and practical examples, Pope Francis encourages mothers to pray for a gift of counsel. He closes his address with an uplifting quote from Psalm 16: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (vv. 7-8). May the Spirit always be able to infuse this certainty in our heart and thus fill us with his consolation and his peace! Ask always for the gift of counsel.

Melanie Jean Juneau is a petite wife, writer and mother of nine children who blogs at Joy of nine9. When the words "The Joy of Mothering on a Hobby Farm" popped into her head as a subtitle for her short stories, it was like an epiphany for her because those few words verbalized her experience living with little people.The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought provoking with a strong current of spirituality running through it. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life, especially a life lived in God.