Last month, we prayed a diocesan-wide novena to the Holy Spirit leading up to Pentecost. We asked the Spirit to renew our diocese, our parishes, and the people within. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean the Spirit will change who we are; it means He will renew in us the gifts bestowed at our Baptism to make us more ourselves. The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and the charisms He gave us.
Do you have a charism? If you were baptized, then yes. You have been given at least one of these special gifts. But unlike the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), these gifts are not for our own benefit and our own holiness, but for the benefit of others, for the Church, for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit knew you from before your conception and loved you and trusted you with gifts that are perfect for you to serve the Kingdom of God.
Sometimes people get confused by the word “charism” because they think it is all about the charismatic style of prayer, but a charism is simply a way that God uses His willing servants to serve others. St. Paul described these gifts.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. - 1Corinthians 12: 4-11
The Spirit distributes these gifts. These are different from our natural-born talents which we can also use to serve God. The difference is when we use our talents, we serve God. When we are open to a charism, God uses us. By no means, did St. Paul list all the charisms. Elsewhere in Scripture, in Church documents, and in the writings of the early Church fathers and saints there are many references to various charisms. Did you know that Administration, Hospitality, Leadership and Craftsmanship can be charisms?
But, again, that doesn’t mean that having a talent for these things is the same thing. Although sometimes talents and charisms do complement each other, that isn’t always the case. Look at Peter who sank in the water and denied Jesus in fear. After Pentecost, he was given the charisms of leadership and pastoring to name a few and led the Church and died a martyr.
Seventeen years ago, I worked through the “Called and Gifted” workshop with a group from my parish. I had worked for years as a teacher and I was good at it. Teaching came naturally to me. But when I carefully examined my history with teaching, I did not have that charism. I could still be a good teacher and serve God with my talents, but He did not use me in extraordinary ways as a teacher. What I did discover was I had the gift of “Helps” This gift “empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s goodness by using his or her talents and charism to enable other individuals to serve God and people more effectively.” (Sherry Weddell, The Catholic Spiritual Gifts Resource Guide) So when I helped other people use their gifts to serve the Kingdom, I could tell I wasn’t acting alone. Somehow, what I said or did inspired, motivated, assisted, and garnered great fruit in the other, much greater than logic would dictate. When I did these things, I felt happy and fulfilled. I was excited and it was not hard work for me. I have a talent for teaching, but the Holy Spirit gifted me a talent for helps. But, honestly, those two things go together nicely.
Exploring and discerning charisms helped me to think about how God may want me to serve Him. If you would like to learn more about this, you can read more at the Catherine of Sienna Institute in Colorado Springs or contact Dr. Seth Wright for information on how you can attend a workshop in the Diocese.