Pope on Charisms


(General Audience Catechesis, October 1, 2014)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Good morning.

From the beginning, the Lord filled the Church with the gifts of His Spirit, thus rendering her always alive and fruitful. Distinguished among these gifts are some that are particularly precious for the building and journey of the Christian community: they are the charisms. In this catechesis, we want to ask ourselves: what, exactly, is a charism? How can we recognize it and receive it? And, above all, the fact that in the Church there is a diversity and multiplicity of charisms, is this seeing positively, as something good, or rather as a problem?

In ordinary language, when there is talk of a "charism," it is often understood as a talent, as a natural ability. So, in face of a particularly brilliant and moving person, it is usually said: "He is a charismatic person." In the Christian perspective, however, a charism is something more than a personal quality, a predisposition of which one might be gifted. A charism is a grace, a gift lavished by God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit. And it is a gift that is given to someone, not because he is better than others or because he merited it: it is a gift that God makes so that, with the same gratuitousness and the same love, he can put it at the service of the whole community, for the good of all.

Something important that must be stressed immediately is the fact that one cannot understand on one's own if one has a charism, and which one. It is within the community that the gifts with which the Father fills us flow and flourish; and it is in the heart of the community that one learns to recognize them as a sign of His love for all His children. So, it is good that each one of us ask himself: "Is there some charism that the Lord has made arise in me, in the grace of His Spirit, and which my brothers in the Christian community have recognized and encouraged? And how do I conduct myself in regard to this gift: do I live it with generosity, putting at the service of all, or do I neglect it and end up by forgetting it? Perhaps it becomes in me a reason for pride, to the point of always lamenting others and of pretending that things be done my way in the community?"

The most beautiful experience, however, is to discover with how many different charisms and how many gifts of His Spirit the Father fills His Church! This must not be seen as a reason for confusion, for embarrassment: they are all gifts that God makes to the Christian community so that it can grow harmoniously in the faith and in His love, as one body, the Body of Christ. In face of this multiplicity of charisms, therefore, our heart must open to joy and we must think: "What a beautiful thing! So many different gifts, because we are all God's children, and all loved in a unique way." Woe, then, if these gifts become a reason for envy and division! As the Apostle Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, all charisms are important in God's eyes and, at the same time, no one is irreplaceable. This means that in the Christian community we are in need of one another, and every gift received is acted fully when it is shared with brothers, for the good of all. This is the Church! And when the Church expresses herself in communion, in the variety of charisms, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith, which is given by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter in the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life.

Dear friends, see what the Lord asks of us today: to recognize with joy and gratitude the different charisms that He distributes in the community, to put ourselves on the line for one another, according to the ministries and services to which we are called. In this way, the Church grows with the grace of her Lord and becomes in all times and places a credible sign and living testimony of the love of God.

(Bold italics added)