By Cesar Chirinos-Garcia
This article is a personal reflection on my experiences at the Called and Gifted seminar produced by the Catherine of Siena Institute and offered at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bettendorf.
The seminar focuses on teaching the different resources that enable the practicing Christian to discern and understand her or his gifts in the context of church teaching and experience. I do not exaggerate defining this experience as a before-and-after picture in my own spiritual journey.
We learned we all occupy an office in the church just by being baptized and confirmed. This notion breaks the old paradigm that claims we were supposed to be shepherded by others with a special call, and that our role was more or less a passive one, in the sense that our own responsibility was personal and private.
But having an office in the church brings along responsibility, since the office must be used in the service of others. Having been baptized and confirmed, we are obliged to serve others. What is more, we must serve “all others” in the world, not only a selected group of acquaintances and friends.
That is the reason why our office is called vicarious, because by being baptized and confirmed we accept our call to be like Jesus, to pick up our own cross and follow Jesus. It does not mean we are equalizing ourselves with our Lord Christ, but instead, we must be willing to live “vicariously” the experience of Jesus. As Catholics, that is a desirable identification but, as we all know, not so easy to accomplish.
What are charisms? Charisms are expressed in St. Paul’s letters and described in St. Thomas of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae as gratuitous graces, as well as explained in numerous sources within Christianity. Charisms are supernatural in the sense that they extend our own natural abilities, if preexisting as a God-given talent, or help create a whole new set of skills that might have been absent before baptism and confirmation.
The seminar teaches the signs and characteristics of a number of charisms, the most commonly found at least, and provide a torrent of miscellaneous information that will certainly help us start the journey.
As part of the seminar, I currently am experimenting with the charism of encouragement. This particular charism manifests as empowerment “… to be an effective channel of God’s love, nurturing others through his or her presence and words of comfort, encouragement and counsel.”
In order to effectively use my gratuitous grace, I must do so intentionally, so I can become the hands and feet of God in this world, contributing and helping others. That brings me joy beyond measure.
The single most important habit the Called and Gifted seminar stresses is discernment. We must pray for guidance and discernment from the Holy Spirit so we can effectively pinpoint our calling and associated charisms. As human beings we possess an ego/personality that by its own nature won’t allow the recognition of our gratuitous graces. That is the main reason why we must pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us during our journey.
In conclusion, my main point is based on the premise of charisms occurring here and now in each and every baptized and confirmed member of our church and community. And if everyone is aligned with the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer and intention, then we are going to be allowing God’s will in our lives. That is why I say that the Called and Gifted seminar is God’s love in action for each individual and the whole church community.
(Cesar Chirinos-Garcia is a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf.)