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Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 13 November 2008 11:38
Came across this blog accidently but Michelle describes well the impact that discerning charisms can have for one who is ready (and any major transition in life - such as facing retirement - tends to make you ready).

"Driving home from Petoskey, we were listening to a Catholic radio station when I heard a program that hit me like a thunderbolt. Sherry Weddell of the Catherine of Sienna Institute was talking about spiritual gifts, also known as charisms. She spoke of the joy and fulfillment that Christians experience when they use these gifts to carry out God’s will. I don’t remember her exact words, but I’m sure they echoed the essentials I found at the organization’s website,, which I quote here: "Every lay man and woman has been called by Christ (in his or her baptism) to a unique mission, and every lay man and woman has been gifted by the Holy Spirit in order to be able to answer that call. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are both clues as to the nature of the mission for which God is preparing us and tools with which to successfully carry out our mission."

There was that word ‘mission’ again! I hadn't stopped pondering whether there was still something more the Lord wanted me to do throughout my busy spring and summer. Perhaps hearing this radio program was not just a coincidence! I was excited to learn that the Sienna Institute sponsors a ‘Called and Gifted’ workshop, which helps participants to discern their charisms. I couldn’t wait to get home to see if there was a Called and Gifted program in our area.

I devoured every word on the Siena website, feeling even more certain that the Lord did have a mission for me, and that once I discerned my charisms, I would be able use them in support of that mission. Unfortunately, I saw that that there were no Called and Gifted workshops being offered nearby. I decided that I would follow the program on my own by using the discernment materials suggested on the website. I put in my order, and was thrilled when my package arrived a few days later.

My first step in the discernment process was to complete the Spiritual Gifts Inventory. This involved ranking 120 statements on a scale from 0 – 3, where 0 indicates that the statement never applies to me, and 3 means that it often applies. The instructions stated that one should not rank the statements based on what we want to be true or think should be true, but by what has actually happened in our lives thus far. High scores on a particular charism don’t necessarily mean that the gift is present, but that it is a possibility for further exploration.

After completing the inventory, I identified the charisms that had the highest ratings for me. They were: Writing, Service, Music, Encouragement, Faith, and Administration. I was not at all surprised that Writing scored so high, since it has long been one of my favorite pastimes. I have kept a journal for years, and even consider it a form of prayer. It also fit perfectly with my latest idea for volunteer work, helping the unemployed create resumes and cover letters at a local non-profit organization. I had already contacted the agency about doing this, and I was set to attend training in September. Things were definitely falling into place!

The next step was to conduct some experiments to test whether my love of writing was simply a talent and interest of mine, or if it was a spiritual gift. The Discerning Charisms workbook makes a big distinction between the two. Natural talents can be inherited and are independent of God’s grace; they can be used for our own personal good, or even for evil. On the other hand, charisms are supernaturally endowed; they are directly connected to our relationship with God, are dependent upon His grace, and can only be used to serve God’s purpose; they are meant to be ‘given away’ for the benefit of others, not to meet our own needs.

Now I set about listing the steps I would take to discern whether or not I had the Writing charism. I needed to look for the following signs to confirm that this was the case: 1) I would experience an unmistakable sense of joy, peace and energy when using my gift of writing; 2) The results of my writing would be unusually effective and successful in what I was trying to accomplish; 3) I would receive direct or indirect recognition of the gift’s presence from others.

But what experiment would I use to test this out? I wasn’t going to start helping others with their resumes for another month, and I was eager to confirm that the Lord was calling me to use my writing skills to touch the lives of others. I needed something immediate to assess whether the charism of Writing had been bestowed upon me. After much thought, I came up with an idea. And that is how this blog began."

You can help Michelle with her discernment by dropping by her blog and encouraging her to write (and discern) more!

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