Charisms are extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others, for service and mission.  They assist Christians in their efforts to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. These graces can be distinguished from the graces given for personal sanctification through the Sacraments of Initiation and from other graces directed at the individual disciple’s own growth in holiness, such as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Though many Catholics may not know what charisms are or how they operate, they remain a central element of Catholic teaching on the life of discipleship.  Due to the nature of charisms they are ordinarily activated by a disciple of Jesus Christ through a process of discovery, by learning what charisms are, about the variety or ordinary charisms, and then through prayerful discernment.  For those who have taken the Activate Survey, this prayerful discernment involves trying out the charisms that scored highest, testing each one to see if it may just be a natural talent or well developed skill or if it is more than this, the “more” of the action of the Holy Spirit that leads to a greater, sometimes hard to explain effect for the good of those who the disciple has served, taught, led in an apostolic activity, etc. Then through this process of action, testing, prayer, discernment, the person can more deeply cooperate with he action of the Holy Spirit in their life and in this way “activate” their Baptismal graces more fully and to greater effectiveness for the building up of the Church.  Many people find it helpful to participate in a discernment prayer group or to find guidance from a guide, mentor, or spiritual director.


Here are some quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of charisms.

CCC 798 The Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.” (247) He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity: (248) by God's Word “which is able to build you up”; (249) by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body; (250) by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ's members; by “the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts”; (251) by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called “charisms”), by which he makes the faithful “fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.” (252)

CCC 799 Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.

CCC 800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms. (253)

CCC 801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,” (254) so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.” (255)

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