What makes you different than every other person on the planet? What gifts do you have that are unique to you and can be used to serve the world? This meeting centers on the idea of spiritual gifts, or charisms. Read through the material below to familiarize yourself with the idea of charisms. You may want to consider sending some of this out to your group in advance or printing some of it off to share at the meeting. Be sure to ask each community member take the online Spiritual Gifts Inventory before the meeting. Having the opportunity to tentatively identify some possible charisms in ourselves will help facilitate conversation in this meeting.
The Greek word for “charism” means “gratuitous gift.” Charisms are given by the Holy Spirit to be used for the good of the Church and the world. Everyone has a charism! God has gifted each of us in a special way to serve others and participate in the Divine mission. Sometimes the trickiest part is discerning what those charisms are. The information below can shed some light on this idea of spiritual gifts, and the time we spend together in conversation and prayer can help us grow in our understanding of the gifts God has given each of us and what we are invited to do with those gifts. Often, that can help us also understand our vocations and our greater call as we seek to live a faithful life.
The Catholic Church describes charisms in the Catechism (2003-2004):
“Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning “favor,” “gratuitous gift,” “benefit.” Whatever their character – sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues – charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity, which builds up the Church.”
Here are some important characteristics of charisms:
- Charisms are, first and foremost, freely given by the Holy Spirit. They are not earned or achieved.
- Charisms are given to be used for the community. They are not for us to enjoy in solitude. They are essentially intended to bear fruit in the world and meet the needs of the faith community.
- Charisms are different than “talents.” For example, a person could be a talented musician, but if she does not feel a strong desire to use that gift for the community or people aren’t moved to grow in faith and holiness by her music, then it is a talent, not a charism. That’s not a bad thing! As a talent, that may bring her great joy and even help her in her own spiritual growth. However, it is important to recognize the distinction.
- Charisms, like so much else that comes from God, must be discerned. This discernment can take place individually through prayer and exploration. There must, though, also be a communal element to the discernment. Often, our community can identify a charism in us that we might not be able to notice on our own.
While charisms must be discerned, there are some indicators that can suggest that we have a charism:
- A charism often feels easy, as though it comes naturally.
- You may find yourself serving as a leader in an arena that involves this charism, because you “just get it” and understand with great clarity how to exercise the charism.
- Exercising your charism uplifts your spirit and brings you energy.
- People will notice and say to you things like “when you do _____, you seem really happy,” “you are really good at this” or “you’re a natural.” The community recognizes charisms.
Ask for the graces of openness and recognition.
Think back over your week and try to recognize a time that you felt like you were at the top of your game, using your gifts and talents in a way that made things seem to fall into place or feel natural. Don’t worry about bragging a little bit – share that with the group!
Introduce the idea of charisms based on the information above in the Facilitator Notes. Read the following Scripture to the group and invite them to listen for what Scripture tells us about gifts. Who gives them? Who benefits from them? What is their function in the community? What are some that are explicitly named?
“For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:3-8
“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.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Invite the group to share what they hear about charisms in these Scripture passages.
Encourage the group to spend some time reflecting on the idea that each of us has a charism.
- Was there anything that surprised you when you took the Spiritual Gifts Inventory online?
- Do you think your results point to a charism within you, or are they way off base?
- Have you had experiences that shed light onto the question of how you are uniquely able to serve the Church and the world?
- When have you seen someone else who you think has a charism exercise it? Tell a little about why you think it is a charism.
While it is important to discern for ourselves how the Spirit may have gifted us, it is also important to hold that discernment up to the community. Let’s spend some time reflecting where we may see the Spirit’s gifts in one another.
- As we look around the room, where have we seen confirmations of charisms in others?
- Did something someone shared in the first go-around strike a chord in us?
- What did I notice in myself as I listened to the others in the group?
- Can we affirm the charisms of one another? (Even using the sentence, “(Name), you may have a charism for ______ because when you ________, I noticed ________.”)
Charisms need to be discovered, discerned, and developed in order to reach their full fruitfulness. Select one charism that you think you may have, and commit to spending an hour or two this week intentionally exploring it. For different charisms, that may mean different things. Still, keep it at the forefront of your mind and prayer this week, and do what you can to “try it out” in the light of God and see what you notice. Try not to covet one charism over another, but instead ask God to help you be open to recognizing wherever you have been gifted. You may want to spend 30 minutes with another member of the CLC at the end of this week discussing your experiences of exploring the charisms.
Suscipe by St. Ignatius of Loyola
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
“Each of us receives from God a call to make Christ and his saving action present to our surroundings. This personal apostolate is indispensable for extending the Gospel in a lasting and penetrating way among the great diversity of persons, places and situations.” (CLC-USA General Principles #8a)
“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-31