So a question that naturally arises when discerning our unique charisms is, ‘how will I recognize the Holy Spirit is actually working through me with a charism?’. To answer this question and discover the ‘signs’ of the Holy Spirit, we must first be reminded of what the charism itself represents. Grace. When speaking about the Church and charisms, Saint JPII states how the Holy Spirit “bestows upon her varied charismatic gifts and adorns her with the fruits of his grace”. When we look at the Catechism in reference to charisms and grace it states that this grace “grants us to associate with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church (CCC 2003)”. Our discernment then becomes a greater awareness of the grace bestowed by the Holy Spirit and the fruit of His works for sanctification and evangelization.
How do we grow in this ‘greater awareness’? We must start by being more attentive to what Saint Paul teaches us about the ‘fruit’ grace creates in our lives and the lives of others. So first let’s look at what we experience when the Holy Spirit works through us. Saint Paul states “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience” and a few others (Gal 5:22). These ‘fruits’ experienced within your heart would be the first sign of the charism being present.
Secondly, we must recognize that grace “belongs to the supernatural order” and “cannot be known except by faith”(CCC 2005). Just as in personal encounters with Jesus those who receive the grace from a charism will receive a supernatural effect. Those who experience the Holy Spirit’s grace, like the Blind man at the Pool of Siloam who stated this about Jesus “one thing I do know is that I was once blind and now I see” (Jn 9:25), will have a supernatural experience through the charism. Many times when speaking with people discerning their charisms they have told me stories about others sharing with them situations in life that have been turned around unexpectantly because of their charisms. Too many to speak about in this article. These experiences would be the second sign.
The last sign that is discerned is a recognition of the charism. Generally this is called direct or indirect ‘feedback’. Let me share with you one quick story how I have seen this happen. While speaking with a woman about her charisms she shared while in prayer one morning a very old friend came to her heart. Someone she had not spoken with since senior year High School. Through social media she was able to find her. Just simply reaching out to her they spoke about their lives. At the end of the conversation the old friend tells her that her marriage is about to end. The woman asked if she could pray for her. The friend said yes. This woman was discerning the charism of Intercessory Prayer because the Holy Spirit seemed to direct her toward prayer for others and doing so brought great joy in her life. After six months the friend called her and told her that her and her husband had reconciled and their marriage is doing much better. Obviously one does not discern a charism from one experience but many. However, this one experience shows how the three signs of grace can be recognized related to a charism: The joy in her heart when praying for others; the reconciliation of a broken marriage because of the prayer; and the recognition or feedback from an individual of the grace.
This short piece is only a touchstone of the ‘signs’ one should experience during the discernment of one’s charisms. It is also important to understand that discernment of our charisms is ongoing. It is a practice of ‘mining’ one’s lived experiences with God and a greater awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. If you are interested in learning more or getting started discerning your charisms please click here.
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