A New Charisma for the New Year
As a new year dawns, most of us consider resolutions for living, thinking and feeling better. We can capitalize on the waking up of the world that typically occurs around this time. But, since improvement requires taking a hard look at where we fail, it’s easy to get discouraged and not even try. As a possible remedy, I propose we focus on our strengths, particularly our spiritual ones. Every Christian has spiritual strengths—they’re called charisms, and they provide direction and purpose not only for the new year, but for our entire lives.
WHAT IS A CHARISM?
The word “charism” comes from the Greek word charisma, which means “divine favor or gift.” The root word is charis, which means “grace.” But this is not the grace that makes you holy. This is a grace for the other, for the building up of the Church. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Or, as Peter reminds us, “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10). A varied grace, for the common good, employed for the other—that’s a charism.
A CHARISM’S KEY CHARACTERISTICS
There’s so much to be said about these extraordinary gifts; however, let’s consider these six characteristics:
1. Every baptized person has charisms. Along with many other gifts and graces, Baptism also imparts certain charisms. From her comprehensive research of Church teaching, Sherry Weddell identified 23, and most people have between two and five. Examples are: administration, craftsmanship, evangelism, healing, leadership and teaching.
2. Charisms equip you to fulfill your vocation. God has a plan for how every person is meant to devote his or her life to the building up of others and the betterment of the world. Thankfully, this calling also comes with the strength to discern and to follow it. Charisms provide that strength.
3. Charisms emerge through relationship and need. Powerful, inspirational things happen when your relationship with Jesus becomes personal and when a need arises that draws out your charism—which is your way of meeting the need.
4. Charisms are whole-life gifts you take with you everywhere. This doesn’t mean they always emerge. Sin or selfishness can thwart their fruitfulness, but charisms are always with you. You can’t lose them. They can also emerge in secular settings; a teaching charism changes lives just as well in the boardroom as in the Catholic school.
5. Charisms are not irresistible. They aren’t superpowers. When Cyclops opens his eyes, lasers shoot out, whether he likes it or not. But with charisms, we must choose in faith and with pure motives to do what God is calling and has equipped us to do. God doesn’t force us to do anything.
6. You can’t use charisms to do evil. Charisms are powerful, but you can’t use an administration charism to organize a vast, evil empire. God doesn’t work that way.
HOW TO DISCERN YOUR CHARISMS
At this point, you’re probably wondering what your spiritual strengths might be. If you’re ready to go all-in, try Weddell’s three-step process for charism discernment that begins with a “Called & Gifted” workshop. Until then, consider these three questions: What makes you come alive? What ways do your friends and family say you are uniquely gifted? What’s a need in the world that bugs you the most?
Take these questions to prayer and two things will happen: Jesus will slowly reveal your charisms, and you will step towards a life of spiritual strength and power.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization. | [email protected]
This article appeared in the January 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.