Speical Considerations on Charisms and The Charismatic Dimension of the Church
“Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost.
Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind
and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus,
and following the lead of blessed Peter,
it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior,
the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.
In 1998 John Paul II declared that “the Charismatic dimension” of the Church is “one of her constitutive elements.” This means that the exercise of the charisms is not merely an added benefit to the life of the Church but is of her very nature and essence. It can be further said that the charismatic dimension of the Church is ordered to her evangelizing mission. As Pope Francis has recently taught:
The Holy Spirit … enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms. These gifts are meant to renew and build up the Church.
Charisms “are particular gifts given by the Holy Spirit to each individual for the common good of the whole Church, the mystical body of Christ.” Χάρισμα (charisma) or the plural χαρίσματα (charismata) is variously translated as a “spiritual gift,” “spiritual aids,” “’favor’, ‘gratuitous gift,’ ‘benefit.’ (CCC 2003)” It is a supernatural gift, insofar as it directly bestowed upon the person by the Holy Spirit and is not merited as any particular reward. The Greek word is found ## sixteen times in the New Testament: Romans 1:11; 5:15, 16; 6:23; 11:29; 12:6; 1Corinthians 1:7; 7:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 1Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1Peter 4:10. However, only a portion of those occurrences (in bold) refer to charisms as defined above . Origen refers to this enumeration of charisms as the “catalogue of “charismata” bestowed by God.” The primary passages of this list are: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 28-30, Romans 12:6-9, 1 Peter 4:8-11 and Ephesians 4:11-13. ## These passages delineate twenty-one charisms: Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostleship, teaching, assistance, administration, ministry, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, hospitality, service, evangelizing, and pastoring.
According to the Catechism charisms are “oriented toward sanctifying grace (CCC 2003)” and, St. John Paul II reminds us, they aim at the encounter with Christ in the sacraments. As such, they are not ends in themselves; they have as their ultimate goal the union of the Body of Christ in the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The glossary of the Catechism goes on to say that the charisms “directly or indirectly benefit the Church, given in order to help a person live out the Christian life, or to serve the common good in building up the Church (CCC Glossary).” We discern in this passage three purposes: (1) to directly or indirectly benefit the Church, (2) to help a person live out the Christian life (3) and to build up the Church.
St. Paul is absolutely clear that the purpose of a charism is to ## “build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12; cf. 1 Cor 14:3, 4, 12, NABRE).” In fact, the criterion of an authentic use of charisms is whether or not they truly “build up the Church and its members and advance its mission.” Pope Francis succinctly confirms both of these points:
A sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy people.
Ultimately, the building up of the body of Christ allows one to “collaborate in the salvation of others (CCC 2003).”
## A close look at the documents of the Church and papal speechs reveals a third benefit of charisms: they communicate the lived presence of the Holy Spirit. As such, the charisms function as signs confirming the action of the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that another term for a charism is a manifestation. Peter Herbek states, a charism “brings with it a sense of God’s presence and has a particular ability to help us recognize that the Lord is present …Sometimes we call this … “anointed.”
Lumen Gentium and the Charismatic Dimension of the Church
We will discuss hierarchical gifts at length at the end of this class.
Therefore, by the Holy Spirit, who distributes the charismata as He wills for the common good (1 Cor. 12:11), … He raises up in the Church certain institutes which take as their own special task the duty of preaching the Gospel.
John Paul II also referred to this type of charism saying,
By their nature, charisms are communicative and give rise to that "spiritual affinity between persons" (Christifideles laici, n. 24) and that friendship in Christ which is the origin of "movements".
It is this use of the charism that has become common parlance for referring to “the spirituality and way of life of…institutes, communities, and movements.”
These points highlight some special considerations on the use of charisms and the charismatic dimension of the Church.
Special Considerations on Charism and the Charismatic Dimension of the Church
The first special consideration concerning charisms and the charismatic dimension of the Church is the difference between “outstanding” versus “more simple” charisms, or “extraordinary” vs. “ordinary” charisms. It is very natural for most people, when hearing the term “charisms,” to conclude that what is being referred to are supra-ecstatic public expressions. This notion in turn causes a fear or a hesitancy to accept charisms into one’s own life. This hesitancy can be caused both from scriptural accounts as well as from historic experiences within the Church. We see such an account in the writings of St. Irenaeus:
For some drive out demons… some have foreknowledge… visions and prophetic speech, … cure the sick by laying hands on them… the dead have been raised and have remained with us for many years (Against Heresies, 2, 42:2).
Tertullian also proposed a similar list as a proof text against Marcion for the authenticity of the Catholic faith. Such lists lend themselves to the idea that charisms are extraordinary and thereby are intimidating and even undesirable to many.
## Yet, as Lumen Gentium points out, there are many that are “more simple and widely diverse.” Such charisms are teaching, assistance, administration, ministry, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, hospitality, and service. Precisely because these are less spectacular they are less emphasized and accounts of their use are not as frequently promoted. Yet in the experience of the Church they form the lion’s share of the charismatic dimension of the Church. Whether a charism is ‘extraordinary’ or ‘ordinary’ Lumen Gentium reminds us they are to be “received with thanksgiving and consolation.”
Not Dependent Upon Personal Holiness
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoer (Mt 7:22).
Notice these persons could prophecy, exorcise demons and perform miracles, but Jesus calls them evildoers. According to Jesus the key indicator of an authentic operation of a charism is its conformity to the will of God. In the same way that the state of a priest’s soul does not impede but strengthens the efficacy of the sacrament; so too, the personal holiness of a Christian does not impede but strengthens the work of the Holy Spirit. As Lumen Gentium 12 stated, charisms do not guarantee the “the fruits of apostolic labor” because it is possible that they are not exercised according to God’s will.
Greater Than Nature, Less Than Love
## A charism is a “special intervention of God in man’s faculties and operation.” As such, they are truly supernatural.
The supernatural…. informs nature, remolds it; if necessary it can exorcise it...; it transfigures it in all of its concepts and activities.
A charism is truly greater than nature. The gift the Holy Spirit bestows upon a Christian is a gift that functions for the community without eliminating the person’s own identity. At times charisms inform a person’s natural talents giving them a fluidity and effectiveness “of a truly divine character.” At other times a charism can come to a person as an independent gift that had little precedent in a person’s natural abilities.
But all charisms are ordered by love: the love of God and the love of neighbor. The love of God ensures that a charism is operating according to God’s will. The love of neighbor ensures that a charism truly builds up the Church. Love is the “charism of all charisms” and the “bond of perfection (Col. 3:16).”
Unity in Diversity
## Unity in diversity has been a recurring theme in Pope Francis’ writings.
Diversity must always be reconciled by the help of the Holy Spirit; he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity.
In the context of charisms the theme of “unity in diversity” is played out in three ways: one body with many parts, sacramental unity and charismatic diversity, and hierarchic and charismatic gifts.
One Body, Many Parts
## St. Paul went to great pains to explain the unity in diversity found within the body of Christ. “But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body (1 Cor 12:20).” Immediately following his analogy of the human body he enumerated one of his “catalogues of charismata” explicitly relating the function of the charisms, whether they be greater or lesser, to the good of the whole body. At times the presence of charisms in one person can lead to jealousy in another, causing a rift in a community. Or one person desires for a more extraordinary charism when the Spirit chooses to endow him a “more simple” one, causing a rift within oneself. In the end, “unity in diversity” has to do with the interplay between communion (koinonia) of the body of Christ achieved through service (diakonia) in the charisms.
Sacraments and Charisms
Hierarchic and Charismatic Gifts
## The third way in which unity and diversity is played out within the charismatic dimension of the church is the interplay between the hierarchic and charismatic gifts. It should be noted that ‘hierarchic’ gifts should not be assumed to be the gifts belonging the only to the clergy of the church. While this is an aspect of ‘hierarchic gifts,’ many charisms, such as, teaching, leadership and administration, belong to lay persons as well as clergy. This distinction within charisms has become the subject of controversy throughout the history of the Church. St. Clement himself in the first century took up Paul’s concern for communal unity among the members of his own church. We see this controversy come to a head again with the Montanist movement of the 4th century. And again we see this controversy arise in the Protestant reformation in the discussion surrounding the Royal Priesthood verses the Hierarchical Priesthood. ## Even Paul VI addresses this recurring conflict:
In other regions… communautes de base come together in a spirit of bitter criticism of the Church, which they are quick to stigmatize as "institutional" and to which they set themselves up in opposition as charismatic communities.
While hierarchical gifts are not exclusive to the clergy, the clergy are uniquely endowed with charisms to “equip the holy ones for the work of ministry (Eph 4:16),” such as, apostleship and pastoring. It is the job of the hierarchy “to acknowledge with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of the laity (Presbyterorum Ordinis 9).” ## This properly refers to the “discernment of charisms (CCC 801)” which has the goal of “the diverse and complementary charisms working together ‘for the common good (CCC 801).’” This discernment of charisms was a recurring theme within the documents of Vatican II which states that this discernment is not a unilateral, “top-down” discernment, but “should be done by the laity in communion with…their pastors who must make a judgment about their true nature and proper use.” St. John Paul II says that this discernment under the direction of authority is the guarantee of authenticity of a particular charism:
How is it possible to safeguard and guarantee a charism's authenticity? It is essential in this regard that every movement submits to the discernment of the competent ecclesiastical authority.
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you (Heb 13:17).
So indeed, the charismatic dimension of the Church is truly one of her constitutive elements. It is interwoven in her life of love and service and supports her evangelizing mission. These special gifts are bestowed upon the Church in a wondrous array and make the Church vibrant with life and bestows upon her the “aroma of Christ…among those who are saved and among those who are perishing (2 Cor 2:15).” This dimension of the Church exists to build up the body of Christ, to increase the life of sanctity of individuals and to make manifest the life of the Spirit visible to the entire world. Whether extraordinary or ordinary they are to be welcomed into the life of a Christian insofar as they lead to the salvation of others. Though, indeed, they do not guarantee the holiness of an individual, they do impart to that individual a power they can only possess as a direct gift of God. This power is oriented to the unity of the body and is subject to the hierarchical gifts, of which obedience is the guarantee of authenticity. With these gifts the Church today can relive what Jesus’ disciples experienced as, “they went forth and preached everywhere, [and] the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it (Mk 16:20).”
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