Taking Back Charism

John Johnson's picture

What does it mean to be a "charismatic Catholic"? Chances are, this phrase conjures images of Pentecostal-like hysteria and over-blown emotionalism. As a young man, I attended a certain "charismatic Catholic conference" that shall remain unnamed. It was full of hundreds baby-boomers prancing around a playing tambourines. At one of the breakout sessions, there was a well intentioned priest from a well known univesity who I remember saying, "Don't know how to speak in tongues? I'll teach you." "Great," I said to myself, "can you teach me to get the stigmata also?" The room, filled with teenagers began to drop like flies - being "slain in the Spirit." I remember that everybody else was falling on their face, so I had to join in. Once I hit the floor, I peeked open one eye and wondered if I was the only one faking it. Needless to say, I was scarred for life and wanted nothing to do with "the charismatic movement."

But what if I told you that this wasn't the charismatic movement? What if I told you that charism, in its truest sense has nothing to do with nonsensical, ejaculatory self expresion and everything to do with building up the Church in a way that She most needs to be built up at any given time (cf. 1 Cor. 14). There is a simple deffinition of the word "charism" that Catholics, now more than ever, need to recollect. A charism is a grace bestowed on the one or the few for the sake of grace being bestowed on the many. Write it down, remember it, internalize it - because I firmly believe that God is bestowing grace on many of us for very specific purposes and we don't even know it. 

Consider this: each one of us finds ourselves in a certain parish. Now it would be easy to think that our parish is a consequence merely of our zip code or our preference for the lesser of two horrible music ministries. But there is something deeper to consider. God got you born and put you in His Church for a reason. And He put you where He put you for a reason. Have you considered adopting the charism of your parish patron? Say you go to St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Parish - what if you adopted a contemplative spirit of evangelization and simple charity and made it your own for the sake of the world around you?  Of course, this disposition should be accomplished according to one's own capacity and circumstances - but God has seen it fit to bestow certain graces on certain people for the sake of building up His Church, and your parish is one of the principle loci of grace in your life. Why not begin to share in the charism of that saint? Consider also your confirmation saint. You may think you chose yours - but the truth is that he or she chose you.

We need to also remember that God put you in the world with certain people for a certain reason. As a youth minister, I see countless young people who are the 'most Catholic' people in their families. I see them evangelizing their families - their parents. It might sound strange but it often makes me think that God put just enough people in the world to get everybody to Heaven. You might be the only Catholic in your family. Great. How good it is that God put you there, for their sake. Our circumstances might seem like a burdon for us and usually they are, but we need to remember that our states of life, our family, and our neighbors are the best indicators of the sort of charisms God is giving us. We are in the world for the sake of the world; as Christ is, we are in the world to bring those in it to the Father. And the Spirit who gives us all gifts as He sees fit (1. Cor. 12:11) ensures that we have what we need to get the job done. So look around. Look for what God needs done in the world around you. You might just discover that you have been given the gifts to do something for the Kingdom. With the gifts that God is giving and wants to give you, souls will be saved. Let's be true charismatics and accept this mission. 


Share this: