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Charismatic and Sanctifying Gifts

—from the blog post Charisms =/= Sanctity by Mark Shea at the National Catholic Register

The point is that there are two different sorts of gifts that the Church speaks of: charismatic gifts and sanctifying gifts.


Now Paul’s point in describing the charisms is this: your charisms are not for you.  They are the gifts God gives you (typically in Baptism and Confirmation, though God is not bound by the sacraments) to give away.  Their purpose is to build up the body of Christ, help your neighbor and renew the face of the earth.  Somebody exercising a charism is exercising it for the benefit, not of himself, but another.


One of the ways in which we grow in grace is to be obedient to our charisms and let them be expressed.  Charisms are vital to our vocation and are given by God so that we can do the work of love to which we are called.  In the words of the St. Catherine of Siena Institute, “If you are called, you are gifted and if you are gifted, you are called.” But (mark this) it is the obedience to God which is the thing that does the possessor of the charism good, not the charism per se.  In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Indeed, without the practice of virtuous obedience to God a charism can often just make one’s fall more complicated and disastrous.  So while suppression of one’s charism through fear can be a form of disobedience, likewise perversion of one’s charism by sinfully turning it from the service of God to selfish purposes can be a much graver sin that distorts and destroys oneself and one’s gifts.


Which brings us to the second sort of spiritual gifts: sanctifying gifts.  These are the gifts you get to keep.  The sanctifying gifts, not the charismatic ones, are the gifts that make you like Christ.


Confirmation strengthens us in our baptismal graces, and, in particular is ordered toward making us friends of Christ and participants in his mission.  The sanctifying graces given us in that sacrament are all ordered toward making us Christlike so that in preaching to others, we ourselves are not lost.  They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.  And it is from these gifts that we get the “fruit of the Spirit” that scripture describes: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)


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