Counsel is the sanctifying gift of supernatural prudence, right judgment, spiritual intuition, and transfer of control to the Holy Spirit for quick response in an unexpected or difficult situation. The gift requires the state of grace to enable us to see and choose the best course of action for the Glory of God and our own salvation.
The execution of Saint Maximilian Kolbe in the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII is a remarkable example of Counsel. He voluntarily substituted for a prisoner wrongly condemned to death as punishment for an alleged escape attempt of another prisoner.
“The ten were selected, including one imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn’t help a cry of anguish. ‘My poor wife!’ he sobbed. What will do ‘my poor children?’ When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, ‘I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.’”
The humble friar promptly allowed the Counselor to control the extremely dramatic situation and recommend the adequate course of action. The priest also witnessed the gift of Fortitude, and the 11th Commandment taught by Christ:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
The gift of Counsel perfects and elevates the virtue of prudence. Fr. John Hardon distinctly compared the gift of Counsel with the virtue of prudence in three capital points: decision making, course of action, and decision transfer.
Prudence requires reflection on different alternatives before the selection of the best course of action, whereas Counsel instantly advises the action. Christ said: “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.” (Matthew 10:19) Counsel is immediate and prudence is analytical. A prudent man can advise his neighbors regardless of being in the state of grace, but he receives the gift of Counsel, and can advise his neighbors, only if he is in the state of grace and receptive to the Counselor.
The supernatural gift of Counsel is definite, specific, particular and directive. Pope Francis emphasized the importance of prayer for the gift of Counsel: “Lord, help me, advise me, what I should do now?” We allow the Counselor to help us momentarily to make a perfect decision. Humility is paramount to Counsel, because the more humble a person is, the more active and effective will be the gift of Counsel. “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)