The Third Gift of the Holy Spirit:
Counsel is the third of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in Isaiah 11:2-3. All seven gifts are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ, Whom Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 11:1), but they are available to all Christians who are in a state of grace. We receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit when we are infused with sanctifying grace, the life of God within us—as, for example, when we receive a sacrament worthily. As the current Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, "They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them."
The Perfection of Prudence:
Counsel is the perfection of the cardinal virtue
. While prudence, like all the cardinal virtues, can be practiced by anyone, whether in a state of grace or not, it can take on a supernatural dimension through sanctifying grace. Counsel is the fruit of this supernatural prudence.
Like prudence, counsel allows us to judge rightly what we should do in a particular circumstance. It goes beyond prudence, though, in allowing such judgments to be made promptly, "as by a sort of supernatural intuition," as Fr. John A. Hardon writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary.
Counsel in Practice:
Counsel builds on both wisdom
, which allows us to judge the things of the world in light of our final end, and understanding
, which helps us to penetrate to the very core of the mysteries of our faith.
"With the gift of counsel, the Holy Spirit speaks, as it were, to the heart and in an instant enlightens a person what to do," writes Father Hardon. It is the gift that allows us as Christians to be assured that we will act correctly in times of trouble and trial. Through counsel, we can speak without fear in defense of the Christian Faith. Thus, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, counsel "enables us to see and choose correctly what will help most to the glory of God and our own salvation."