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Fr. Bob at pulpit during Easter Vigil

Charisms of the Spirit

A brief explanation of each of the nine charisms is in order.

  1. Wisdom.

    Our faith tells us that God has a specific plan for his people - for the whole Church, for smaller bodies of believers, and for the individual as well. The word that gives us his direction is known as wisdom. It is, then, hi 'now' word for us. When we think we are hearing it from him, we have to discern properly and test it out. Though we can often get it wrong, it is well worth pursuing on a regular basis. 

  2. Knowledge.

    If we are ministering to someone or a group of people, and we seem to have come to some kind of impasse, the Lord may give us an inner word, some kind of enlightenment to assist us to do his work. This would be a piece of information that we ordinarily could not get hold of. This should be familiar to the Church. St. John Vianney ministered with this gift continually. He would know people's sins before they confessed them. It is not reading minds. It is a gift of knowledge. Like wisdom, this, too, must be discerned and tested out. 

  3. Faith.

    This is not the same as the ordinary gift of faith which the Lord gives us when we surrender to him, that assurance that what we believe is true. This is an extraordinary gift of faith which will tell us what God is going to do. St. Luke gives us the example we need. He recounts that, when Paul was preaching in Lystra, there was, in the group of listeners, a man who was lame from birth. He says: 'Paul looked directly at him and saw that he had the faith to be cured.' (Acts 14:9) Paul then told the chap to get up and walk, and he was healed in an instant. The gift of this particular kind of faith operated in both of them. God disposed the man to receive the healing and revealed to Paul that he, the Lord, would cure him if Paul would call it out. Jesus healed in the same way. He did only, he tells us, what he saw the Father doing. (John 5:19) He knew what his Father was going to do. That's the gift of faith we refer to here. 

  4. Healing.

    This is one we are familiar with, if not, perhaps, from personal experience, certainly from reading, not only the Scriptures, but the chronicles of the Church. There have been many strong healing ministries. Brother Andre of Mount Royal is one most Canadians have heard of. It is important to note that it is not the minister of healing who receives the gift, but rather the person who gets healed. He is the one who receives the gift. The one who prays for him simply ministers it. 

  5. Miracles.

    These are occurrences which go beyond the laws of nature. When Jesus walked upon the water, this was a miracle. When he fed the multitudes, this, likewise, was a miracle. Those who are familiar with the ministry in El Paso of Father Rick Thomas and his team will know that the miracle of the multiplication of food still happens in our day. 

  6. Prophecy.

    A prophet is one who speaks for God. A word of prophecy, if it is authentic (and it must be discerned), conveys some message to us from the Lord. A prophetic utterance is often spoken in the first person, after the manner of the Old Testament prophets, as though God himself is doing the talking and choosing the words. It doesn't have to be that way. If we feel we might have some sense of what God wants to say in a particular situation, we can simply say so. It isn't necessary to phrase it in first person style. Most of the 'prophecies' I have heard at meetings, though very nice, were not, I feel, actual words from God. A lot of them were nice, comforting thoughts, but possibly proceeded more from the person speaking them than from God. 

  7. Distinguishing Spirits.

    The reality of the spiritual battle that goes on around us is something most of us would rather not know too much about. Yet, it's going on. And it can have profound effect upon us. Evil spirits can influence people and events. This gift enables us to tell when something is coming from God and when it, perhaps, has some other source. 

  8. Tongues.

    The gift referred to here is one which has place at a meeting, and assembly or liturgy at which we are rendering worship to God. A person will speak out in an unfamiliar language (or language-like sounds). This has an arresting effect on those present. When it is authentic, it is the Lord's way of catching our attention so that we will listen carefully to what follows. St. Paul gives an extensive teaching on this in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14. The people there were making entirely too much use of this gift, and he writes to call them back into the Lord's order. There are other gifts of tongues, one of which is a ministry instrument as well. This comes into play during prayer ministry when the one praying is not sure what to pray for. St. Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans when he says: 'The Spirit, too, helps us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray as we ought, he will himself make intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech.' (Romans 8:26) There is an additional gift of tongues, used in giving praise to God. But this is more for personal edification than for ministry.

  9. Interpretation of Tongues.

    When tongues have been used to speak out at a public gathering, the attention of those present having been caught, something is now required in the vernacular so that everybody will have an idea of what the Lord has in mind. If the original intervention has been authentic, there will follow an 'interpretation' in the language of the place. When is it authentic, it ends by being a prophetic word upon which the Lord seems to want to lay particular emphasis. 

No all of these charisms have been common through the history of the Church. Some have been in more frequent us than others. The same can be said for our own day. But, nonetheless, when genuine, they are all from God himself. They all have their own proper use. They are meant for ministry within the Church. Do we need them? We need all the help we can get. 

It is said that Saint Therese of Lisieux experienced one day in prayer and unusual vision. Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit were laid out before her, as it were, on display. She heard the Lord inviting her to choose one. Her response was: 'It'll take them all, if I may.' She had the right idea.


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