1. This gift of God illumines and perfects the intelligence. The purpose of the gifts, it has been already explained, is to make the soul more alive to, and more appreciative of, the whispered instinct of God; not to create new faculties, but to increase the power of those already existing. My mind, then, has to be supernaturalized and refined to that pitch of perception which will enable it to grasp and to understand God’s message. Now the mind itself works upon a great variety of subjects. It has whole worlds to conquer, planes of thought which are very clearly distinguishable; yet in its every activity it needs this divine refinement, so that in all four gifts are allotted to perform this complete enlightenment of the mind. Knowledge overcomes ignorance and is concerned with the facts, visible and sense-perceived, in creation; for by the council of the Vatican it is laid down as part of the deposit of faith that human reason can prove the existence of God altogether apart from the supernatural motives which grace supplies. The visible world is held to contain ample proofs which in themselves are adequate logically to convince human understanding of the existence of God. Individual reason may fail to satisfy itself. People may declare truthfully that they are not convinced; the Church insists only that it can be done.
2. Knowledge, however, in this sense is a gift of God whereby we discover Him in His own creation and in the works of man. It is here no mere task set to reason for detecting the Creator in His handiwork, but an actual vision by which the soul is supernaturalized and sees Him patently everywhere. The beauteous face of nature is merely seen as a veil, hiding a beauty more sublime. Things of dread as well as things of loveliness come into the scheme, things trivial and things tremendous, things majestic and things homely, all that God has made. Even man’s work, who is himself only one of the greater masterpieces of the Great Artificer, is affected by this new light with which the world is flooded. The delicate pieces of machinery constructed by human ingenuity, that gain in wonder and in power, are themselves still God’s work at one remove; they are the fruits of a mind that He has constructed, and they do not exhaust the capacity of that mind. They reveal hidden potentialities as well as express actual achievements. Weapons of destruction, with all the horror they rightly inspire, are yet witnesses again to that parent-intelligence whence was begotten man himself. All this, of course, as soon as considered, is admitted by every believer in God, but the gift of knowledge makes it realized and seen steadfastly.
3. Life, then, of itself is full of illusion. That is the cry, desolating and pitiful, which arises from the higher followers of every religious faith. Man is bound to the wheel, his mind is compassed with infirmity, he is born into ignorance. Desire tumultuously hustles all his days. He needs, therefore, some light whereby he may find the true inner meaning of all with which he comes in contact. Here, then, in the gift of Knowledge is such a true vision, understanding, vouchsafed him of the visible things of creation. He will realize as much, perhaps, even more than before the attraction of beauty, only it will be no snare, but a beckoning light. He will find in it now no illusion, but the perfect image of a greater beauty. The charm of the world about him will become greater, the wonders of nature, the intricate pattern of mechanical appliances, the fury of storms, the tumult of the wind, the terrific force of pestilence, the psychological facts of man’s mind, the construction of his frame, the grouping of his social instincts, all now will be alive with God, shot through with the divine splendour, elevated to His order of life, eloquent of His name—a deepening knowledge of God achieved through a knowledge of His creatures.