A charism is a supernatural gift and it had supernatural effects. When I say this, I often see people raise their eyebrows. How so? Let me explain.
Charisms are supernaturally empowered ways in which God’s mercy, love, healing, truth, beauty and provision will reach others through us. Charisms, unlike skills or talents can never be kept to ourselves or used deliberately for evil.
The best way of illustrating the supernatural effects of charisms is to look at the lives of the saints. We do not have to look too far back in history if we use the example of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Most Christians are moved to compassion by the sight of a starving child or an emaciated old person, and they might make a donation to one or other worthy cause, but Mother Teresa’s gift of Mercy was extraordinary in every way. She was able to reach out to the whole world with her example and to millions both personally and through the work of the Missionaries of Charity. She was able to identify that gift and allow the Holy Spirit to work though offering her life in its service.
Closer to home, Caroline Chisholm rescued thousands of young women from the streets of Sydney and found them meaningful work across the early colonies. She assisted in the settlement of thousands of poor families from England to a more prosperous life in colonial Australia through her work with the Family Colonisation Loan Society. She was also married and the mother of nine – six of whom attained adulthood. Her charism of Wisdom enabled her to find solutions to contemporary social problems. In explaining her vocation she wrote:
“I was impressed with the idea that God had, in a peculiar manner, fitted me for this work . . . On Easter Sunday I was able to make an offering of my gifts to the God who gave them . . . I felt my offering was accepted and God’s blessing was on my work.”
Caroline had, through prayer and fasting during Lent, arrived at the idea that God had ‘called’ and ‘gifted’ her for the task at hand.
I often give talks about Caroline Chisholm and as I outline her many achievements, I can see beads of sweat appearing on the brows of many in the audience. Just hearing about everything she did can make one feel tired. However, no single activity of Caroline’s was extraordinary in itself, but the fact that one woman achieved so much is indeed supernatural. How did she do it? In and through the Holy Spirit, of course!
Charisms are also evident in our own communities. There may be someone you know who has a charism of Hospitality – who makes people feel welcome in their home, or workplace or parish. Or someone with the charism of Encouragement to whom individuals turn in times of trouble. Or someone with the gift of Administration whose involvement in any activity ensures that it runs smoothly.
‘Charisms like evangelism and encouragement can powerfully move others to open their lives to Christ. Charisms like teaching and wisdom can help remove impediments to freely choosing personal faith and discipleship. Gifts of healing, intercessory prayer, and hospitality can enable the recipient to co-operate in Christ’s redemptive work by healing others. And charisms of leadership, administration, mercy and giving enable the recipient to co-operate in Christ’s redemptive work by healing society.’
The Called and Gifted Workshop which is one tool for spiritual gift discernment identifies twenty-four of the most common charisms. As described by Sherry Weddell, the author of the Workshop:
For more information on Caroline Chisholm, check out the podcast at: http://cradio.org.au/topics/christian-living/discipleship-virtue/caroline-chisholm-a-prophet-of-the-laity/
Or visit www.mrschisholm.com