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How I’m learning to visualize the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit


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Tom Hoopes - published on 05/15/23

The Catechism says that the Holy Spirit gives them to us as “the first fruits of eternal glory” — so they are literally the beginning of heaven, experienced on earth.

I’ve been meditating on the Holy Spirit in a special way because of the Spirit’s indispensable role in configuring me to Jesus Christ which, I gather, is the point of life.

In particular I have been focused recently on the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which I see as brilliant articulations of exactly what I want and need in my life. The Catechism says that the Holy Spirit gives them to us as “the first fruits of eternal glory” — so they are literally the beginning of heaven, experienced on earth. 

It lists 12 of them. To memorize, envision, and imitate them I correspond them by threes with my children.

Two of my children are beautiful exemplars of “charity, peace, and joy,” the first three fruits of the Holy Spirit.

I have two daughters who have always been loving, always ready to help; always above the fray of family friction; and joyful, always ready to encourage and support others. 

One of them wanted to work for an airline at an airport, knowing she could keep her cool when dealing with a frantic, irritated customer. Another is entering medical work, where I’m sure she will do what she did for us, brightening bad days and reinforcing others’ strengths. 

They are my icons of “charity, peace and joy.” Who’s yours? It could be anyone in your family — or a favorite saint, like St. John Paul II who inserted love, peace, and joy into the strife of the Cold War.

When I think of “patience, kindness, and goodness” I picture two other children of mine.

One has put up with a lot with great dignity, and is adept at accepting with grace what she cannot change. She doesn’t answer criticism with criticism, and if a conversation turns negative, she doesn’t join in.

Or I can see one of my sons as well: He is always trying to rally his brothers, always answers an angry word with a kind response, and is always on the side of what’s best for others. 

Who is your example of patience, kindness, and goodness? Mother Teresa is a great candidate. She was never complacent but always patient; far, far from a pushover but always kind; never a “goody-two-shoes” but always good. 

My exemplar of “generosity, gentleness, and faithfulness” is a daughter.

In school, she was always the one who served in whatever capacity needed to be filled; she was understated enough to pass between various cliques; and she was dedicated in such a way that if she was on the job, you knew it would get done.

These virtues particularly showed themselves when my family faced a medical catastrophe. She gave generously with her time, with the right demeanor to calm a scary situation, and then she kept coming back to the hospital to help, again and again and again. I see her two youngest brothers now following in her footsteps.

If you don’t have someone like this in your life, many saints fit the bill of “generosity, gentleness, and faithfulness.” I think of Father Emil Kapaun pouring himself out for his flock, giving fellow prisoners of war whatever would build their hope — a joke, a prayer, or an item he had scrounged — and coming back repeatedly despite darkness and cold.

Last is “modesty, self-control, and chastity.”

Here I am thinking of two different sons who have dedicated themselves to helping their brothers and other young men know themselves, tame themselves, and dedicate themselves to what is best in others.

One has sincerely and intensely pursued religious life and the other gives talks aimed at teaching theology of the body to classmates, and then follows them up with dinners dedicated to discussing authentic masculinity.

Saints who fit this bill include St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, of course. But they could be your example of all 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Who do you know that shows you the meaning of the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

If it’s not a family member, maybe it’s a saint. If it’s not a saint, it could be a favorite fictional character. We have all been blessed with signs of the Spirit in our lives, signs we can see, appreciate, and imitate. 

My prayer is, “Lord, help me learn from my children to be more like you, through the power of your Holy Spirit.”

FamilyHoly Spirit
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