Have you ever wondered if you’ve been gifted by God? A specific gift that you could use that would bring happiness to you and others? I have. Especially these past years with little children running my life and other such busy-ness, I’ve questioned God regarding where he wants me and what he wants me to do with this life that he’s given me.
I understand I’m a mother and a wife and those are important callings that have a large place in my life. However, I often feel unfulfilled and searching for a way in which to bring joy not only into my life, but also into the lives of others. Surely God wants this for me too, so what am I supposed to do?
Years ago when I lived in Ottawa, a couple of nearby parishes pooled their resources together and put on a program known as the Called & Gifted Discernment Process. I was intrigued. It was a series of sessions centred on discerning the charisms that God has gifted a person with and how they can be used best. The two Youth Ministry Coordinators who were running the program spoke later about how it completely changed them and the people who participated it. It was freeing.
What is Gifts Discernment?
Fast-forward to seven years later; this time I have three young children, serious doubts regarding where I feel God is calling me, and a bad previous employment experience where I felt my gifts and talents were stomped on. I’m feeling a little rough at the edges and my prayers to God mostly consist of ‘Where do you want me? What am I supposed to do? Why am I feeling frustrated and angry about this so often?’
Curiously, my diocese advertises a one-day workshop on the Called and Gifted Discernment Process by the Catherine of Siena Institute at this time. Call me baffled, but it seems that God is answering me with some work. A babysitter is now in order.
So on Friday October 21st, I attended the one-day session on gifts discernment. Here’s how it works:
- Learn about the history
- Take a gifts inventory questionnaire. There are 120 questions to help narrow down what charisms you may have
- Look over the charism descriptions
- Schedule an appointment with an interviewer to go deeper and help discern which may be charisms and which may be more natural talent or skill (optional)
- Continue experimenting with and discerning the charisms highlighted through the inventory questionnaire and the interview
- Use the gifts given to bring glory to God and deep joy in your heart
What Kind of Charisms Are There?
There are seven types of charisms:
A person usually has more than one charism, and often they work together. For example, if one has the charism of knowledge, they may also have a charism of teaching, writing, prophecy, encouragement, or leadership that aide in the use of charism of knowledge.
Katherine Coolidge, the Called and Gifted Coordinator for the Catherine of Siena Institute, told us at our workshop that the less charisms one has, the better we are able to focus on what God is calling us to do with the ones we have. With fewer charisms, we do not have to over-worry where we spend time. Should I take up that open volunteer position organising all the liturgies? I ask instead, do I have the charism for Service, Leadership or Administration? If the answer is no, then I shouldn’t carry guilt in saying “No” to the opportunity. We understand the gifts God gave us and that there are others who do have this gift and need that opportunity to say “Yes” to that charism. With fewer charisms, we have the opportunity to joyfully say “Yes” to God more often, and bring God’s glory to others.
Done the Questionnaire?
After discerning which charisms may be present, there is next an optional one-hour interview with a seasoned spiritual gifts interviewer. I engaged in this process and found it helpful to go through some charism possibilities that were confusing regarding the circumstance. I found that the interview helped me to affirm the charisms with which I should start off discerning more deeply.
If you do not take the optional interview, the next step is to immerse yourself in a charism and look for three things:
- Effectiveness – when you experiment with the charism, is it effective? Like teaching – do people truly learn and grasp what you are presenting?
- Your own experience of it – do you find joy and fulfillment in using this charism?
- Response or affirmation of others – do others affirm the response this charism should give? If a teaching charism, do they thank you for reaching them? Do they line up to hear you teach? Do people generally respond that you’re a great teacher?
Through evaluation with these criterions, one can slowly but efficiently discern the charisms God has given.
What Does This All Mean?
Discerning my charisms has, oddly, explained a lot in my life. I am still on the journey of discernment, but as I look on my previous experiences in life I now have some reasons. They explain why tasks of administration completely tax me and I am horribly unreliable in them. Even though experience has taught me lessons in administration, I hold no joy or happiness in those tasks and often I desire to either procrastinate or nap when those tasks come up. It has explained why I do find much, much joy in academics and knowledge and have a deep thirst for knowing more and sharing more.
What does this mean for us, as mothers? It means that for some of us, tasks of helping at every bake sale, ministry, care home, or school come naturally and with joy, and if that’s not our charism, then we don’t need to bark up that tree. For others, teaching children, whether our own or others’, is where we find great fulfillment. And yet for others, talking with strangers about Jesus and his love is what brings happiness and delight. Our handmaid is not guilt – we do not have certain charisms and that is perfectly okay. We have our own charism to claim and we can use it in a way that no one else on earth can.
The message is just as St. Paul tells us: though many parts, we are one body. We can bring God glory and honour by using our unique charism, and we are to be happy sharing it with others. Not only that, but there is an actual process we can use to help us to figure that out. Isn’t that a reassuring message?
What charism do you know or suspect you have?
For more information about the Called and Gifted Process, check out the Catherine of Siena Institute.
Keep watch in the coming weeks for my interview with Katherine Coolidge, the Called and Gifted Coordinator for the Catherine of Siena Institute!
Copyright 2016 Jane Korvemaker