Written by Michael Fones
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 12:37
This is an article by Lydia Lim that ran in the Stanford Catholic Newman Center bulletin last week.
Back home in Singapore, the biggest celebration each year for my family is Chinese New Year, which usually rolls round at the end of January or early February.
I am terrified of Chinese New Year. I do not exaggerate when I say that well over 100 people trek through my family’s home on the first day of the New Year celebrations. They start arriving as early as 9am and keep on coming until 9pm. Some stay well past midnight. For an introvert like me, it is exhausting to be serving food and drinks, and making conversation with that many people for a whole day, even if most of them are relatives, or perhaps because most of them are relatives!
For many years, I resented what I considered to be my mother’s excessive hospitality. Did she really have to invite so many people over, and so often? For it was not just Chinese New Year when the hoards descended; they did so at Christmas and on many a weekend as well.
It was only after I learned about the special spiritual gifts called charisms that I realised my mother has the charism of hospitality, and that she is doing God’s work when she opens her home to family, friends and neighbours. Charisms are special gifts that God gives each of us through the Holy Spirit. God means for us to use our charisms to serve others; so that they can experience His love and provision for them. When people visit the homes of those who, like my mother, have the charism of hospitality, they experience a welcome so warm, they want to return. The experience can even bring healing to those who are lonely or feel at the margins of society.
The thing is God gives us each of us different charisms. I obviously do not have the charism of hospitality, but I believe I have the charism of teaching. Standing up in front of a group of strangers to teach them a particular subject probably isn’t my mother’s idea of fun, but it is mine – even when I am sick as a dog. I remember once teaching when I was ill. The amazing thing was that the moment I got up to teach, I felt energy coursing through me and my fatigue just melted away. That energy was the Holy Spirit, for when we use our charisms, we serve as channels for the Holy Spirit to enter the world. That also explains why we can be remarkably effective, and enjoy results that we might not have thought humanly possible.
Our charisms provide clues to our personal vocation – a unique work of love that God calls each of us to do. As Scripture tells us, He calls each of us by name. He has a special role for every one of us to play in his plan of salvation and He distributes his gifts accordingly. When God gives us a job to do, he also gives us the gifts we need to get that job done. God not only called Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta to minister to the poorest of the poor, He also gave her the charism of Mercy. That charism empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s love through practical deeds of compassion that relieve the distress of those who suffer.
That is why discerning your charisms can help you figure out God’s call for you. The Called & Gifted workshop that will take place at Stanford this coming Friday Jan 22 and Saturday Jan 23, is specially designed to help Catholics discern their charisms. The workshop includes Church teaching on the laity and lay apostleship. Participants will have a chance to do a Spiritual Gifts inventory – 120 questions to help you sort through your experiences and see what charisms you might have. You will learn more about the signs and characteristics of 24 common charisms.
The workshop is a special programme of the Catherine of Siena Institute, based in Colorado Springs. The institute and its team of trained teachers have over the past 12 years run Called & Gifted workshops for thousands of Catholics across the US, Europe, Australia and Indonesia. Fr Michael Fones OP, co-director of the institute and a Stanford alumnus, will be flying in to lead the workshop at Stanford.
After attending one workshop, a woman who was a nurse by training, discerned that she had the charism of Missionary, which empowers a Christian to be effective in a culture other than her own. That process of discernment led her to Tanzania, where she launched a programme to distribute drugs to those stricken with HIV, saving many lives in the process. The workshop has helped many other Catholics clarify their personal vocation and inspired them to change their lives accordingly, perhaps in less dramatic but in no less important ways.
The Called & Gifted workshop will take place on the 3rd floor of Old Union on Friday Jan 22, from 730-10pm, and Saturday Jan 23, from 930am-4:30pm. The workshop is one-and-a-half days long, and free of charge for all members of the Catholic Community at Stanford. Please email Lydia at
Lydia Lim is a Lay Dominican from Singapore and a journalist by profession. She is at Stanford for a year on a Knight Fellowship.