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 elect the best action for the Glory of God and our 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 transferred control to the Holy Spirit in the extremely dramatic situation. The priest also witnessed Fortitude, and the New 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)
Counsel perfects prudence. Fr. John Hardon contrasted Counsel with prudence in decision making, course of action, and decision transfer.
Prudence requires reflection on 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 the state of grace, but he receives the gift of Counsel and advises his neighbors, only if he is in the state of grace and is receptive to the Holy Spirit.
Humility is paramount to Counsel, because of receptivity to the Holy Spirit. “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)