There is a famous (or infamous) meme that runs, “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” In reality, to be true, we should change this saying to “That’s what we do. We think and we know things!”
Ordinary knowledge is when a person assimilates something outside one’s mind into one’s mind. Assimilate literally means to make like. According to Fr. John Hardon, knowledge in its ordinary meaning, is,
any act, function, state, or effect of mental activity. Essential to knowledge is that some of reality from outside the mind is re-presented in the mind by what is called an intentional likeness or similarity to the object known. Knowledge, therefore, is assimilation of mind with object. As a result there is an intentional (assimilative) union between knower and known.
The human being’s potential to know reality seems unlimited and ever-expanding. We can even know things about God, who is outside the material universe, like that he exists and must have an omniscient intellect. One of the most curious things about our human knowledge is that we even know we don’t know things. We are always asking further questions.
If God wishes, He can give us knowledge. This is called infused knowledge. Again, Hardon writes, infused knowledge is,
[t]he gift of natural (secular) and supernatural (spiritual) knowledge miraculously conferred by God. [It is t]hought by some to have been possessed by Adam and Eve, who came into existence in an adult state and were to be the first teachers of the human race.
According to Catholic theology, angels were given infused knowledge at the moment of their creation. However, short of God giving us infused knowledge of the universe and Himself, we acquire our knowledge over the course of our lives.
This is perhaps enough background for us to acquire knowledge of the gift of the Holy Spirit of knowledge.
Stated simply, Fr. Joseph Thomas, says the gift of the Holy Spirit of knowledge “helps Christ’s disciples to perceive the practical way of doing God’s will in each moment.” It is knowing what God wants us doing.
In more depth, Fr. Hardon writes that,
By the illuminating action of the Holy Spirit [this gift] perfects the virtue of faith. It gives a person the ability to judge everything from a supernatural viewpoint. The object of this gift is the whole spectrum of created things insofar as they lead one to God. Through infused knowledge the faithful can see the providential purpose of whatever enters their lives, and they are able to put creatures to the right use according to God’s will for themselves and for others. Sometimes called “the science of the saints,” it enables those who have the gift to discern easily and effectively between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace.
For a Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Lectionary 121), click here.