By Nikki Gartner
My first experience with Called and Gifted was in 2011 in the Archdiocese of Kansas City. A friend invited me, so I said “yes.” During the class I learned about 24 different charisms (gifts) God uses through us for the benefit of the body of Christ. Each charism could be used uniquely based on the person giving and the person receiving the gift. I never realized I possessed gifts God would use to deepen the faith of his people, to provide them with hope and to lavishly pour out his love. Until this point, I had yet to discover what made me unique and special in God’s eyes. I had come into my faith only a year before, and was on fire to learn more about God and my Catholic faith. The question that intrigued me most: “Why me God? I am really nothing special.”
As I ran through the endless possibilities of gift combinations, the veil was lifted and I began to understand the importance of every person in the body of Christ. We are a family unit and, as in our own families, there are many needs. At times family members may need encouragement, prayer, council, leadership or help with their faith. The list is endless.
In 2012, three weeks after moving to the Quad Cities, I noticed Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf was offering a Called and Gifted course called “Discernment in Depth” and I felt compelled to attend. This course built on the concepts of the introductory course. It helped me to understand my place in the family of God. When I use these God-given gifts for others, my heart is open to give and to receive love and through that channel God shares his divine love with each of us. This energizes me, gives me hope, deepens my faith and increases my ability to love God and others more.
Here is a personal example of how Called and Gifted has impacted my family:
Last summer, on a Sunday before Mass, our family decided to ask God to teach each of us one thing we could share with one another afterward.
Walking up to receive the body and blood of Jesus during Mass, I recall asking Jesus to open my heart and heal the areas in need of healing. As I returned from receiving the Eucharist, I knelt down and felt this beautiful golden light radiating from the center of my heart to the rest of my body, similar to that of the sun’s rays beaming out from behind a cloud. I felt a sense of holiness radiating within me. Cherishing this prayer experience as a consolation, I suddenly felt a tug on my left arm, followed by, “Mommy … mommy.” It was my 6-year-old son. The intimate prayer experience could not continue if I ministered to my son. I turned toward him and said, “Yes, honey?” He responded, “Mommy, do pregnant ladies ever die when they have their babies?” His question took me off guard, but I recalled our conversation before Mass and thought, maybe God is trying to teach my son something. I told him it was possible, and that maybe he was meant to pray for these women. He nodded his head in understanding and turned back to the front of church. Kneeling, he placed his hands together and said a prayer, a most heart-warming and beautiful experience to witness. As I returned to my own prayer, I felt Jesus speak to my heart, “You see, your holiness will grow as you help your children grow in holiness.” Tears of gratitude and love flowed gently down my cheeks as I began to process what had taken place.
After Mass, we shared as a family what God was teaching us. As I shared the experience my son and I had, my husband looked at me in disbelief. But, in the back of our heads we thought of my brother’s wife who was seven months pregnant with their third child. Little did we know God’s plan. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Two months later, on Sept. 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we received a call from my brother. My sister-in-law had given birth to a healthy, beautiful 7.7-pound girl named Lily Marie. However, my sister-in-law was losing an extreme amount of blood and coded. After 17 hours and six pints of blood, the doctors were able, by the grace of God, to stop the bleeding.
During this time of prayer and waiting for answers, I remembered my son’s prayer at Mass two months earlier. That prayer experience was no coincidence. God knew the difficulties my sister-in-law would face and he chose my son’s gift of intercessory prayer to cover everyone in the hospital room that day.
What if I had ignored that little tug on my shoulder that day at Mass? What if I didn’t use the gift of wisdom God gave me in order to instruct my son on what to do with his question? These gifts are real; they impact others, and us. God invites each of us to explore these gifts, to open our hearts and to receive the love he lavishly pours out to you and me. Please take the time to get to know your gifts; your family needs you.
(For information about beginning a Called and Gifted program in your parish, please contact Nikki Gartner at jngartner@ aol.com or call (563) 370-3360.)