Recognizing the Charismatic Gifts
of the Holy Spirit
Catholic theologians have not finalized a theology of the charismatic gifts. What follows is rooted in scripture, in various commentaries and in extensive experience of the charisms. "Common" charisms have human activities and as charisms presuppose a reliance on the Spirit. "Divine" Charisms (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, § 50) are supernatural manifestations of Divine power.
- The ordinary charisms are usually listed in Romans 12:6–8 , in Ephesians 4:11 and in 1 Peter 4:10–11 . All Christian virtues could be added including those listed as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23.
- These charisms have activities/objectives/results within the competence of the human agent.
- The activities can be developed and initiated by the Christian as a permanent and often repeated ministry or service or virtue.
- According to Scripture charisms are related to the Holy Spirit. Common activities become charisms when the agent becomes an instrument relying on the Holy Spirit. All Christian activities should be ministries in Jesus' Name (with His motives and doctrinal content) and should be empowered by the Holy Spirit. While being baptized and confirmed puts us in relationship with the Divine Persons, we must learn to cooperate with the Spirit. However we can ignore and resist His interventions. We can abide in the kingdom of self and perform impressive activities and services for the glory of self.
- As charisms, they involve a permanent and more or less complex service or ministry. The Spirit in Scripture has provided content or motives that make these human activities to be ministries instead of purely human activities. We should develop with supernatural content and motives, as examples, the virtues of patience and chastity (Galatians 5:22–23), or the gifts of exhortation or mercy (Romans 12:6–8), or the offices of evangelist or pastor (Ephesians 4:11) — and employ them in our lives and ministries in reliance on the Holy Spirit.
- Ordinary charisms have a human activity that is moderated and defined by, and so identified with, the institutional or hierarchical dimension of the Church. However, as we rely on and are co-responsible with the Holy Spirit, these activities become charisms in the charismatic dimension of the Church. Our Christian lives should be charismatic. The Charismatic Renewal promotes reliance on the Holy Spirit and so openness not only to these Ordinary charisms but also a simultaneous openness to the Divine charisms.
- The Divine charisms are manifestations of the Holy Spirit Himself, as St. Paul insists regarding the nine charisms mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:7–11. The Office of Peter is protected by a Divine charism.
- These charisms have activities/objectives/results that are beyond the ability of the human agent!
- The activities cannot be developed or initiated by the agent, but are ad hoc gifts given gratuitously by the Spirit and manifest His presence and power.
- They are directly caused by the Spirit. When an authentic word of wisdom or word of knowledge is given by a person, the Holy Spirit intervenes to proclaim some truth or guidance beyond the abilities of that person. Through the charism of faith given to an unaware agent the Spirit transforms the faith of another person as only He could do. Through the charism of discernment the Spirit personally grants timely insight that could not be achieved by the discerner under the same conditions. Through the charism of prophecy or the co-charisms of speaking in tongues with interpretation, the Spirit provides for some hearer(s) inspired and anointed words that do not flow from the insights of the person exercising the charism. Spirit-led people learn to be open always to such interventions of the Spirit. They may not always be aware that the Spirit is working though them.
- They are a ministry only in that a given Christian may have a humble openness to and reliance on the Spirit for a given Divine charism. In a humble person the Spirit in freedom accomplishes results clearly beyond human capabilities, as through the charism of healing (physical or emotional) or the charism of miracles, e.g., multiplying food or calming a storm by a word of prayer. We can intercede for a supernatural healing now but we cannot impose that healing.
- Divine charisms are manifested in and identified with the charismatic dimension of the Church. Each Christian should be at home with and grateful for the charismatic dimension of the Church. In every ministry Spirit-led Christians should be available if the Spirit chooses to provide a Divine charism.
— Fr. Tom Bill, C.S.C.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI, addressing two charismatic groups, affirmed and promoted the charismatic emphasis of the young movements in the Church on October 31, 2008:
"The ecclesial movements and new communities, which bloomed after the Second Vatican Council, are a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church. . . . They should be welcomed with trust and valued in their various contributions. . . . The charisms arise as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, not as a historical event of the past, but as an always living reality. . . ."
"The Spirit himself, soul of the Church, acts in her in every age, and his interventions, mysterious and efficacious, manifest themselves in our times in a providential way. The movements and new communities are like an inrush of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. . . ."
"One of the positive elements and aspects of the communities of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely the importance given by them to the charisms and gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having reminded the Church of the actuality [of these gifts] . . ."
The Pope emphasized the value and the importance of the new charisms in the Church, whose authenticity is guaranteed by the willingness to submit themselves to discernment from ecclesiastical authorities.