Monday, January 9, 2012


St. Augustine says that the Church is a city, with the Blessed performing different functions to produce self-sufficiency. (Aristotle notes that the city is the first tier of social interaction to be self-sufficient and although most of St. Augustine's philosophy training was in Plato, Scripture puts the Aristotelian position across.) Without each citizen, no citizen can attain his good (because the whole does not achieve the common good).

One example of this self-dependence within in the church militant is charisms. The Catherine of Siena Institute gives a good definition:
Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to be powerful channels of God's love and redeeming presence in the world. Whether extraordinary or ordinary, charisms are to be used in charity or service to build up the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003).

The... "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit" and the "fruits" of the Spirit are gifts given to us to keep. They are part of our inner transformation...and provide the inner "Christ-likeness" necessary for the effective use of our charisms (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1830-1832). Charisms, on the other hand, are gifts given to us to give away.

[All Christians have charisms] according to both the New Testament (Ephesians 4) and the teaching of the Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 951).
Here's a list of the charisms a Siena Institute workshop covers. (They came to TAC two or three years ago to help the students discern their charisms. It was so cool!)
  • administration
  • celibacy
  • craftsmanship
  • discernment of spirits
  • encouragement
  • missionary
  • music
  • pastoring
  • evangelism
  • faith
  • giving
  • healing
  • helps
  • prophecy
  • service
  • teaching
  • hospitality
  • intercessory prayer
  • knowledge
  • leadership
  • mercy
  • voluntary poverty
  • wisdom
  • writing

Exciting stuff! What're your charisms?


  1. Do you have suggestions for discerning charisms?

  2. Hi Anonymous!
    The Siena Institute has designed an "Inventory" (a big quiz) to uncover what a person often does for others, what others said about him, and what gives him joy. No quiz results are perfect, but they give a general direction to begin discernment.

    The first step of discernment that the Siena Institute recommends is experiment. To experiment, a person puts himself in a situation where the charism he's discerning could benefit others.

    For example, my inventory indicated I might have the charism of teaching. In the months following the workshop, I helped peers with final exams and led a dissection. My results were positive, but since my discernment was truncated (by the summer vacation) I never began to tease apart the harder distinctions (natural gift vs. consolation vs. charism).

    The Siena Institute booklet (which contained all these instructions) advised that experimentation be accompanied by private prayer and occasional small-group meetings. (I met with two other girls discerning similar charisms.) These meetings provide objective feedback about the discerner and the experimental results, plus intercessory prayer.

    There are some charisms you can't experiment with. ("I was celibate for two hours on Thursday....") You discern these by reading about them, talking with those who live them or have them, and praying. I hope this helps!

  3. This reminds me of a seminar we had earlier this week on the "Motivational Gifts." I'm not entirely sure how gifts relate to charisms, but I see them in the list above: Service, Encouragement, Prophecy, Giving, Administration, Teaching, and Mercy. We took a very short inventory, but it was amazing to see how accurate the primary result was for everyone. One girl has the amazing gift of Prophecy (or, Perception) and it explained so much about her.

  4. charism : gift :: Greek : English
    My guess is, your presentation had the almost-identical content with different words (like Perception). I remember being so edified by finding out what my and others' gifts might be. Everything appeared in a different light when I realized some behaviors might be special graces meant for the Church. I began to see how this life and this world are centered around the Church, and how people with all their personality quirks can be the gloves of God!