instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, May 12, 2014

From virtue to gift to charism

A charism is a special capacity for being the channel of God's grace to others. The different charisms are distinguished by the different graces they channel. Regardless of the specific graces in question, the effectiveness of your charism -- and remember, if you are a baptized Christian, you have a charism (if you aren't a baptized Christian, drop me a line and we'll see what we can do) -- depends upon your relationship with God.

From the negative perspective: To the extent you place sin -- including indifference, which is what we call the sin of impiety these days -- between you and Jesus, you clog up the channel of graces to others by which your charism is meant to operate.

But there's also a positive perspective: As you build up your relationship with God, particularly along the lines He calls you to, so you build up how well your charism operates (which is to say, how freely God's grace flows through you to others). For example, someone with a charism of hospitality might find their charism more effective the more they contemplate God as welcomer of the stranger or Jesus as the Good Shepherd who celebrates the arrival of the one lost sheep.

Note that this means discerning a charism is a good thing to do whether or not you have the charism, since either way you will be building up your relationship with God.

The charism of wisdom, as described in the Catherine of Siena Institute's Called and Gifted program, happens to share a name with one of the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they're two distinct gifts. General distinctions between the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the charisms include:
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are the seven gifts explicitly mentioned in Isaiah 11:2-3; while there are several lists of charisms given in the Bible, there's no complete, canonical set.
  • Each baptized Christians gets all 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit; each baptized Christian gets one or more charism, and must discern which ones they have been given.
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are primarily for the sanctification of the individual Christian who receives them; charisms are primarily for others to receive grace.
If, then, I were in the process of discerning whether I have the charism of wisdom, then it would help if I were to contemplate God's wisdom, and a good way to do that is to develop the Holy Spirit's gift of wisdom, which I know for sure I have, since I am a baptized Christian.

And if I do that, I will come across St. Thomas's argument for why the gift of wisdom is associated with the virtue of charity:
[W]isdom denotes a certain rectitude of judgment according to the Eternal Law....

[I]t belongs to the wisdom that is an intellectual virtue to pronounce right judgment about Divine things after reason has made its inquiry, but it belongs to wisdom as a gift of the Holy Ghost to judge aright about them on account of connaturality with them...

Now this sympathy or connaturality for Divine things is the result of charity, which unites us to God, according to 1 Corinthians 6:17: "He who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit." Consequently wisdom which is a gift, has its cause in the will, which cause is charity....
To improve the chances of observing the charism of wisdom in action, then, I should make better use of my gift of wisdom, and to do that I should do all I can to grow in charity.

And lately I've been asking St. Catherine of Siena to pray for me to grow in charity. Getting me involved in a small discernment group that will require exactly that seems like just the sort of thing she would do.