Cardinal Suenens in his book, ‘A New Pentecost’ gives this definition of a charism, “A charism is a special gift, a perceptible and freely bestowed manifestation of the Holy Spirit, a particular grace of God which is given for the benefit of the whole Body of the Church.”
John Joy in his article, ‘The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal: Theological Interpretation of the Experience’ writes, “The catechism mentions three kinds of grace: sanctifying, sacramental, and charismatic:
‘Grace is first and especially the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us…There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. In addition there are special graces, which are called charisms after the Greek word used by St Paul…the charisms are ordered towards sanctifying grace…They are at the service of charity which edifies the Church.'”(CCC 2003)
This threefold distinction on grace by no means exhausts the many faceted grace of God, yet it suffices for present moment. Concerning the division among various kinds of grace, Aquinas first asks: ‘Is grace satisfactory divided into sanctifying and freely bestowed grace?’ He answers that his division is indeed satisfactory:
Aquinas writes, “According, grace is of two kinds. Firstly, there is the grace by which man himself is united to God, and this is called sanctifying grace. Secondly, there is the grace by which one man cooperates with another so that he might be brought back to God. Now this kind of gift is called freely bestowed grace…It is not called sanctifying, however, because it is not given so that a man might himself be justified by it but rather so that he might cooperate in the justification of someone else. Speaking of this grace. Paul says, to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the good, namely, of others.”
Now you might ask yourself, ‘Why is this important to our understanding of charism?’ There are many points, but I just want to point out just one. I remember listening to a talk by Father Dominick Giles OP on St Thomas Aquinas, and his teaching on the charisms of the Holy Spirit. I remember him saying that Vatican II distinction of charisms into ordinary and extraordinary was a distinction created in the 19 century. St Thomas never made the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit. For St Thomas all the gifts of the Spirit were graces freely given. This means that the charisms of miracles and healing are on the same par with the charisms of hospitality and mercy. None of the gifts are more important than other gift. All the gifts flow from the same Spirit, and all the gifts are necessary for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Gerard Welch in his article. ‘Charisms in the life of the Church’, writes, “The Church characterizes God’s grace as Sanctifying grace (or the gratuitous, unmerited, gift that God makes to us of His own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our souls at Baptism, to heal it of sin and to sanctify it), Sacramental grace (or the gifts proper to the seven sacraments), and as Special Grace or Charisms (or gifts oriented towards sanctifying grace, intended for the common good of the Church, at the service of the love that builds up the Church). These particular gifts or ‘prompting of grace’ take a variety of forms. The charism are special gifts of God and they ‘…are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation.’ ‘They are in fact a singularly rich source of grace for the vitality of the apostolate and for the holiness of the whole Body of Christ, provided that they be gifts that come truly from the Spirit and are exercised in full conformity with the authentic prompting of the Spirit.'”
Thoughts for the day: The Holy Spirit has given you many gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ. Your gifts are valuable if the Church is to be all the Jesus wants Her to be.
Prayer for the day
Holy Spirit thank you for the gifts that you have given me
Holy Spirit teach me how to use your gifts for the greater glory of God
Holy Spirit give me the gift of humility so that I will always give honor and praise to Jesus