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How Do You Know if You Have a Charism?

(c) Josephine Lombardi 2023

Bishop Scott McCaig, CC, Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of Canada, has prepared a catechetical resource titled, Clothed with Power from On High. A Short Catechesis on Charisms in the Life and Mission of the Church. In this insightful reflection on the Church’s teaching about charisms, he assists Christians with the very important task of discerning charisms.

What is a charism?

The Sacred Scriptures inform our understanding of charisms. Bishop McCaig reminds us that the word charism has its origin in the Greek word charisma, meaning “gratuitous gift.” This means charisms “have a divine origin” because they are inspired by God’s grace and are “manifestation(s) of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Essentially, they are spiritual gifts that the Spirit gives to individuals to exercise for the greater glory of God. Moreover, these gifts are freely given by God. This means, according to Bishop McCaig, that we cannot merit them or demand them and they are not dependant on our spiritual state. The following Scriptures give us an insight into these special gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:1

1 Corinthians 12:10

1 Peter 4:10

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Ephesians 4:7

Romans 12:3 and 4-8

1 Corinthians 12:28

2 Timothy 1:6

Charisms are meant to serve God’s will and to magnify God. In his First Letter to the Corinthians (12:4-11), St. Paul mentions some of these special charisms: “the utterance of wisdom,…the utterance of knowledge,…faith,…gifts of healing,…working of miracles,…prophecy,…discernment of spirits,…various kinds of tongues,…the interpretation of tongues.” Essentially, the same Spirit inspires all charisms.

How do we discern if we have a charism?

Bishop McCaig provides a very helpful checklist to help us know which charisms the Holy Spirit has given to us. He concludes that there are “three essential signs that indicate that a charism has been given to someone:”

  1. We are energized when we exercise a certain charism. Furthermore, feeling energized, we experience the fruit of the Spirit, joy. The use of our gift, writes Bishop McCaig, leads to our feeling fulfilled. These are interior indications that a charism has been given to us.
  2. An external indication includes an increase in requests for the exercise of our charisms. There is a demand for the charism with which we have been gifted. Bishop McCaig gives the example of someone with the gift of counsel being sought out for their for their wise guidance.
  3. Another external indication involves the presence and the experience of the fruit of the exercise of the charism. In other words, according to Bishop McCaig, we can “see and experience the effects” of the charism. Teaching, for example, writes Bishop McCaig, that leads to the transformation of the recipients and their greater intimacy with the Holy Spirit, signals the presence of a teaching charism. The effect of the teaching is not limited to the “transfer of knowledge,” he writes.

Although we are strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism and sealed in Confirmation, namely, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, Bishop McCaig reminds us that these are gifts “that we are given to keep,” especially to help us with our interior life. Charisms, on the other hand, are “given to give away.”

Bishop McCaig’s book is published by The Word Among Us Press. The book can be purchased through Amazon.ca.

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