Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Lawyers

[Mass of the Holy Spirit for ADDU Law School]

On the eve of the great solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, in the Year of Faith, we are challenged to examine the quality of our personal faith at the outset of this new academic year for our ADDU Law School, and worship humbly before the Holy Spirit..

As students and practitioners of law, either we believe, or we don’t. Either we acknowledge the love of God, or we don’t. Either we recognize his reign, or we don’t. Whether we have faith or not, has a bearing on the type of lawyers we are, or shall become. Whether we live our faith authentically or not, has a bearing on the type of decisions we make as lawyers. That is why, at the outset of the new academic year in the College of Law, we call on the Holy Spirit for his presence, and ask him for his seven gifts: the gifts that support the life of faith; the gifts that pertain to the intellect: wisdom, understanding, counsel and knowledge; and the gifts that pertain to the will: fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. It is these gifts that as we study the law of human persons binding societies governed by human persons, we acknowledge God’s Law, God’s reign, and our submission to it, even as lawyers.

We pray for the gift of wisdom. This is not just the gift that comes from hard and honest reflection on human experience, constant self-criticism, and critical reflection on life’s regulative meanings. The Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom is the wisdom that comes from faith: from the acknowledgment, there is a God, and in this world, even in this our world of lawyering, he reigns. It is the gift that insists: law, the crafting and legislation of laws, the interpretation and application of law, is not done in an insulated vacuum, a specialized world closed in on itself, impermeable to the grace of God and insensitive to the foibles of the human being. Law, its study and its practice, is done in the context of faith. It is permeated by a sense of the presence of God as Eternal Law, against which ultimately all law must be measured, and of which all law must be an expression. It is permeated by God penetrating human law and constraining it always to promote and protect not the good of some, but the good of all in a world created for all.

We pray for the gift of understanding. This is the gift of comprehending how life for the Christian must be lived in this confusing, mesmerizing world. For the student and practitioner of law, it is the gift of grasping the practical implications of being a Catholic or Christian lawyer: the way of life one must live, its standard and actualization, that must support not only lawyering, but Christian lawyering, not only lawyering for a living, but lawyering for life before God. This is the gift that helps the lawyer to accept that if in lawyering he or she is not to lawyer in obeisance to the demands of money and power, but in submission to the reign of God, one’s life style must support intellectual integrity and moral freedom.

We pray for the gift of counsel. This is the crucial gift of right judgment, the ability in the light of faith, and the breadth of understanding to call what is true and what is false, to declare what is required and so necessary, or what is not required, and so optional. This is related to, but different from, the lawyers’ ability to judge – precisely in the contentious world of clashing opinions – what is legal and what is not legal, to declare what is legally exigent, and so legally binding, and what is legally permissible, and so covered by personal liberty. The Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel, judges what is legal or not legal according to the stringent requirements of law, but never outside the context of God’s Eternal Law – the Law of love, justice and compassion – that must inform all human law and all Christian practice of law.

We pray for the gift of knowledge. As students of law, we study hard to know law; as lawyers, we continue to study hard, to increase our knowledge, not only of law, but of life which impacts on our practice of law. Knowledge is accessible to the lawyer through rigorous personal study. But beyond this knowledge, permeating it with a dimension of the Holy, the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge is the certainty of God’s love for us, his plan for us, and our individual role in this plan, even as lawyers. It is the certitude that lawyers do not live isolated in their world of legalese and esoteric meanings, but live and act within the ambit of God’s saving Word.

The Holy Spirit’s four gifts of the intellect are complemented by three gifts pertinent to the will.

The gift of fortitude. This is the Holy Spirit’s gifts of courage to do what must be done to honor and praise God, and to do what must be done in order to achieve appropriate ends. For the lawyer, it is the courage not only to take the means to serve a client, as the law requires, but to take the means to serve justice, as God requires. This is the gift to stay the course in the pursuit of justice, not simply to enhance one’s track record of victories, but in humble obedience to the will of God, who eschews vanity and empty verbosity, and makes eternal happiness or eternal damnation dependent on whatever you, as a lawyer, have done or not done to the least of his sisters and brothers. This is the gift of courage to stay the course even in the face of great opposition or great danger to one’s self, trusting ultimately in the providence and compassion of Him who is Eternal Law.

The gift of piety. This is the Holy’s Spirit’s gift of practical reverence that preserves the lawyer in humble connectedness with God. For all the lawyer’s brilliance and performance in the limelight, piety keeps the lawyer humble and in touch with God as the ultimate source of light and illumination. It is the gift which supports mature prayer, liberating meditation and authentic worship as essential to the lawyer’s personal and professional activities, infusing life with authenticity and freedom.

The gift of fear of the Lord is the practical side of the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom. For the lawyer, it is awe at the responsibility and power that society gives to the officials of the law, and the desire always to use these not in personal pursuit of private ends, but in the pursuit of justice, as God wills. It is fear to offend the Lord of love and compassion, and so the resolve to be diligent in study, effective in practice, and courageous in taking the means to do right.

At the beginning of the academic year of the ADDU Law School, as we celebrate the memory of the rock on whom our Lord built his Church and of the apostle who in obedience to the Law of God and not of man, brought the faith to all nations,
we ask the Holy Spirit for his seven gifts. As students and practitioners of the law, either you acknowledge the Eternal Law, or you do not; either you draw strength, inspiration and freedom from the faith, or you do not. Either you are “fortes in fide,” strong in the faith, or you are not. As lawyers of the ADDU, may you be strong in the faith – supported generously by the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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