Good morning Father Angelo,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you and all the Dominican Friends for the new site: thank you for your tireless work.
I have already written to you in the past and have been following you daily for a few years. I looked for and read some of your answers on the Holy Spirit, on indwelling (personal presence of the Holy Trinity, I wrote to you about this in 2016 and you replied to my email), on being in grace; I need further clarification and help.
A small premise. First of all, I would like to ask you what is the difference between “gift” and “fruit” of the Holy Spirit; I cannot perceive it, it seems to me that both the one and the other are something we receive, that they are due to the Holy Spirit who produces them in us, yet in the New Testament fruits are distinguished from gifts. I am not asking you to explain them individually (you have already done so in other answers), but to help me understand the basic distinction of the two categories.
1. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural habitus like the theological virtues and therefore keep the soul united to God.
2. Their function is twofold.
The first consists in making a person who lives in grace ready to sense the motions that come directly from the Holy Spirit.
They are therefore like supernatural antennas that make us act in direct communion with Heaven.
3. The second consists in giving a divine way of acting to both moral or cardinal and theological virtues.
Saint Thomas in short and dense terms says that “the virtues perfect to perform acts in a human way, the gifts instead in an ultra-human way”, that is divine (III Sent., Dist. 34, 1, 1). Their superiority over virtues is based on this reason.
And also: “Since the gifts are given to act in a superhuman way, it is necessary that the operations of the gifts be governed by that criterion other than the human one, which is the same Divinity participated by man according to his way, so that he does not act more humanly, but as one who is made God by participation” (Ib., Dist. 34, 1, 3).
The gifts therefore “perfect man for acts which are higher than acts of virtue” (Summa theologiae, I-II, 68, 1).
4. The fruits, on the other hand, are those particular and various experiences of sweetness which ordinarily accompany a person who lives in grace and in whom the virtues are now mature.
St. Thomas says that as “fruit, among material things, is the product of a plant when it comes to perfection, and has a certain sweetness” (Summa theologiae, I-II, 70, 1) so similarly “the fruits are any virtuous deeds in which one delights” (Summa theologiae, I-II, 70, 2).
5. St. Ambrose says that they are called fruits because they fill the soul with a pure and holy sweetness.
In the spiritual order, the fruits of the Spirit are the final product of grace, that is, the perfect or mature acts of virtue.
6. Unlike the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are not habitus, but acts that flourish from them, although St. Paul indicates them by the name of some virtues (patience, gentleness…).
To deserve the name of fruits, these acts must be accompanied by a certain softness.
If they initially involve some difficulties, similar to the acerbity of an unripe fruit, in the end, however, they do not involve any. Indeed, virtuous exercise becomes connatural and delicious. Only sin is felt as unnatural and annoying.
7. Saint Paul mentions the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:22. He enumerates nine: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.
According to the translation of the Clementine Vulgate they would be 12 because long suffering is added to patience, modesty to gentleness, chastity to self-control.
8. To explain even more concretely what this experience of spiritual sweetness consists of, it is useful to quote what St. Francis de Sales affirms:
“The glorious Saint Paul speaks thus: Now the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity (Gal 5, 22). But mark, Theotimus, how this holy Apostle, counting these twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, reckons them as only one fruit; for he does not say the fruits of the spirit are charity, joy, but the fruit of the spirit is charity, joy. Now the mystery of this manner of speech is this. The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us (Rom 5: 5). Charity is truly the only fruit of the Holy Ghost, but because this one fruit has an infinity of excellent properties, the Apostle, who wishes to mention some of them by way of example, speaks of this one fruit as of many, because of the multitude of properties which it contains in its unity, and conversely speaks of all these fruits as of one only, by reason of the unity in which is comprised this variety. So he who should say that the fruit of the vine is grapes, must, wine, brandy, the drink that rejoices the heart of man (Ps 104:15), the beverage that comforts the stomach: —would not mean that they were fruits of different species, but only that, although it was only one fruit, yet it had many different properties, according as it was differently used.
The Apostle, then, simply means to say that the fruit of the Holy Ghost is charity; which is joyous, peaceable, patient, benign, good, long-suffering, mild, faithful, modest, continent, chaste; that is to say, that divine love gives us an inward joy and consolation together with great peace of heart, which in adversity is preserved by patience, and which makes us benign and gracious in succouring our neighbour by a cordial goodness towards him; a goodness which is not variable, but constant and persevering, and which gives us a noble, long-suffering heart, by means of which we become mild, affable and condescending to all, we support their humours and imperfections, we keep perfectly faithful towards them, testifying a simplicity accompanied with confidence as well in our words as in our actions, we live modestly and humbly, cutting off all superfluities and irregularities in meat, drink, apparel, bed, games, pastimes and other such desires and pleasures, by a holy continency, repressing, especially, the inclinations and rebellions of the flesh by a vigilant chastity; so that our whole man may come to be engaged in holy loving, as well interiorly by joy, peace, patience, longanimity, goodness and fidelity, as exteriorly by benignity, mildness, modesty, continency and chastity” (Theotimus, Book 11, Chapter 19).
With the hope that your life will always be full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the variegated sweetness of his fruit, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.
Here is the text of your other specific questions:
Instead, here is the real question, which is divided into the following two points: reading some of your previous answers, I understood that if a person is in grace, he is inhabited by the Holy Trinity and this determines that in the variety of situations of life, to some extent and way, he will enjoy in himself and will show visible to others the fruits of the Holy Spirit (which I mentioned at the beginning) as an effect and consequence of the personal presence of God in himself.
Now I wonder and I ask you:
1. if a person is in a state of mortal sin, then it is not possible for him to be inhabited by the Lord with the fruits that come from it, right? Indwelling is therefore incompatible with being in mortal sin; but if a person sincerely seeks a relationship with God, has examined himself, has confessed, engages in prayer and the Sacraments and is subjectively convinced that he has a clear conscience, but, objectively (only objectively, therefore this person does not realize it), he still has faults that he did not confess, through inadvertence, through forgetfulness, through personal ignorance …, is this person in mortal sin or not?
For sin is required full knowledge, which then this person would not have; I would come to the conclusion that therefore he is not in mortal sin and therefore is still united with God, he can carry him within himself, he can unite himself with him, in the same way therefore as who also objectively (not only subjectively) is sinless.
However: you have repeatedly used the metaphor that if you drink poison, convinced that it is a good liqueur, this does not mean that it will have no harmful effects. So: this person, albeit unconsciously (i.e. when he did it he did not realize it and later it did not emerge in his conscience), did evil, and evil always harms oneself and is incompatible with God who is good and with his presence in us. I deduce that this person can only be separated from God, even if he is convinced that he has no sins. Therefore, I would conclude that, being separated from Him, he is in mortal sin.
I ask you: is he or is he not in mortal sin? Which is the same thing as asking: does he or does he not have the presence of God in him? (or isn’t it the same?)
2. Let’s take a person, let’s put ourselves in his shoes, this is what he is experiencing: he sincerely seeks God, studies and tries to form his own conscience, prays, receives the Sacraments… for his part, he is convinced that he is doing everything and that he is doing it as best he can, already turning to God, more than that he would not know what else and how else to do it, he would like so much to experience the personal presence of God in his heart, some consolation in the midst of the trials by which he is oppressed, a help, or if not consolations at least feeling inhabited by him instead of by anxieties, bad feelings and thoughts. Yet, unlike many other faithful, when he leaves the confessional he does not “feel” anything of those sensible effects of forgiveness that all the others say they experience, he feels nothing in prayer, nothing in Communion … and then, one day, he reflects: “if being in sin prevents us from enjoying the personal presence of God in our heart, and that never happens to me, then it probably means that I am in sin… in fact if I were truly in grace I would experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
If when I find myself in the trial or in the adversity of life, instead of perceiving in my heart love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, I experience being inhabited by their opposite (and inevitably sooner or later I “throw them out”, thus ending up giving a counter-testimony of being Christians) then, even if I express my devotion to Eucharistic Adoration from the heart, I pray, I confess, I take care of the formation of my conscience, I receive Communion, then in reality somewhere that I do not know “I still have some poison convinced that it is a good liquor”, I am separated from Him, I am somehow in sin; otherwise, in fact, if I were in a state of grace I would experience his presence and its fruits”.
Also from your answers I know that there is also the so-called “night of the spirit” for which some Saints have lived more or less long moments (saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta would seem her whole life) of complete spiritual dryness, of silence on the part of God. So I ask myself: how did these people, who lived this separation from him, feel that they were united to him instead? Do you have any idea?
I then consider that perhaps they lived inwardly the silence of God, but nevertheless they testified through their behavior that the feelings they had in their hearts were those of the Holy Spirit, His fruits, instead the person I wrote about above is animated often from restlessness and the Good he does, he does it out of commitment, out of willpower (always uniting them to prayer and asking for them in prayer), but his inner feelings are often contrary to the fruits of the Holy Spirit and sooner or later they do not fail to reveal themselves even on the outside (something that does not happen to those who are really united with him, like Mother Teresa).
This leads me to deduce that the silence that this person lives does not even fall under the “night of the Spirit”, that the good he manages to do, when he does it, is the result of so much effort, but imperfect human commitment if it is accompanied in the heart by so many other thoughts contrary to love; otherwise tell me if this could still be the case. What must this person do in order to experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the personal presence of God in his heart?
I will wait for your answers and in the meantime I will pray for your ministry, God bless you.
here is the skeletal answer to your already long enough writing:
1. It is necessary to remember that in addition to non culpable ignorance there is also culpable ignorance.
2. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that one cannot have the apodictic certainty of the state of grace as the Council of Trent recalls: “No one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God” (DS 1534).
3. The absence of interior consolation is not synonymous with the absence of grace.
As you rightly remember, there are also the dark nights of the senses and the spirit.
4. Much more frequently the absence of interior consolation is caused by venial sin and by imperfect correspondence to God’s inspirations.
5. In order to experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the personal presence of God in one’s heart, it is necessary to be perfect in the exercise of the virtues, that is, to be holy.
Nevertheless, the Lord communicates some taste of this sweetness already in the present life, even if one is not perfect in the virtues.