Five Reasons to Discern Your Charisms

Filed in Spirituality by on July 14, 2014 5 Comments


It’s been a couple of weeks since the Called and Gifted Workshop we held in the Diocese. It was truly a blessed time – many, many people have spoken about how blessed they were by the event. Around three-quarters of people signed up during the weekend for a personal ‘gifts discernment interview’ with one of the interviewers trained by Sherry. These will be taking place over the summer, and will lead into small, local, discernment groups where people will continue to practise, reflect on and discern their charisms.

Some people ask, why do you need to know your charisms? You have a good idea of what your gifts are – why not just get on and use them? Isn’t it a bit of navel-gazing?

Having been through the process, I cannot disagree more! Here are five reasons why it’s an excellent idea to discern your God-given charisms:

1. It makes you reflect on what ‘charisms’ actually are. A charism is a supernatural gift given to all the baptised. It is a gift that, when you use it, has supernatural (not just natural) effectiveness. When you use it, you are ‘aware’ of God working through you. You are all too aware you could not do this on your own strength.

2. When you know what a charism truly is, and you reflect on the experience of using it, it becomes much clearer which of your natural gifts are not charisms. And this is really freeing. For me, it meant that I realised that ‘administration’ perhaps was a natural gift, but definitely not a charism. And it made me realise why there is no “supernatural effectiveness” when I use this talent. It is great to know what your charisms are not! Especially if they have a big impact on others – like music ;)

3. You realise that your charisms are most certainly not about you! They are given for the upbuilding of the Church and the evangelisation of the world. You realise that you can exercise your charisms when you are exhausted, or discouraged, or even lacking in faith, and God will channel his love and provision to others through them. You are aware that these charisms are needed – not for your own salvation – but for the evangelisation of the world. And therefore, you must use them. It is not about you.

4. Charisms manifest when your relationship with God becomes a living reality. When you exercise a charism, it is like praying. Therefore, learning about charisms can be an excellent nudge to people to deepen their relationship with God.

5. If you are gifted, you are called. The charisms are linked to a personal vocation. This belongs to every baptised person – there is no point anymore in any baptised person saying they do not have a mission – it’s too late! They certainly do. Through discerning our charisms, we can discover our mission – there is absolutely no room for unemployment in the Church!

To read more on charisms, see CCC 798-801, 951, 2003… (just a selection)

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About the Author ()

Hannah Vaughan-Spruce is an experienced catechist and youth worker, who now works for the Diocese of Portsmouth. Some of her Jericho Tree articles were first posted at her personal catechetical blog Transformed in Christ. They are used here with permission. See

Comments (5)

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  1. Paul Rodden says:


    Is the implication I seem to be reading here of a ‘personal possession’ and ‘permanance’ of charisms in the points being made as if they’re the spiritual equivalent of lifelong natural talents, given and enduring, like the sense of ‘discerning a vocation’?

    The Catechism in those paragraphs quoted talks about ‘discernment of charisms’, but does that mean a constant on-the-fly sort of thing – of always being vigilant as to whether a supposed charismatic event is fake or not (what is what I get from it in light of #801). Or, is it as what I think is being implied here, the permanent residence of a single charism, or set of charisms, permanently in the individual?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t it more likely that a disciple might be granted charisms on a regular basis (or may not), but they’ll be different ones, dependent upon, and appropriate to circumstances?

    I know this is a bit flippant to make a point, but let’s say we’re in a situation and I’ve got the charism of ‘Glossolalia’, but the person I’m talking to, needs healing. Do I say to them, ‘Oh, sorry mate, unfortunately, my charism’s Glossolalia, and Healing is Fred’s gift, but he’s not here at the moment, but he’ll be back in ten minutes, so we can fix you when he’s back.’?

    If it’s not that sort of thing, then what exactly is the ‘discernment’ about, or for? And, just how do you ‘practise’ them? Like a surgeon? If so, just how can we guarantee such a causal relationship?

    My worry is that it sounds more like magic. But then, I’m always the only one who seems to be the killjoy around here, so maybe I have the charism of always being wrong – or is it just a natural talent? :)

    • Paul Rodden says:

      I’ve re-read the piece and realised what I reacted to was I thought it was about the more miraculous charisms rather than the ordinary. Shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions. Will read more carefully next time.

      But, I still see it as pretty navel-gazing because I just ‘get on with life’, as I think most people do. There’s so much I do that I know I couldn’t without God’s help. I’m nothing special.

      How did the Church survive for so long before seminars and workshops and where many, if not most, were simple artisans? :)

      I do worry that a lot of this stuff is rather a luxury and too similar to self-help and other new age stuff, constantly analysing ourselves in a somewhat narcissistic fashion. Dare I say, very ‘American’? How much of it is simply acculturation from our secular environment? is a question I often ponder.

      Most people haven’t got time or money to be doing the semininar circuit, and if the outpouring of God’s grace is dependent upon it, we’re in a bit of a fix. :)

      Can we be putting too much emphasis on our own importance in the big scheme of things?

      As I’ve mentioned before, I work for an Evangelical Church. It has bible studies and various ‘lay ministries’, and about a quarter of the congregation go to ‘Spring Harvest’ or the Keswick Convention every year. They all come back from these week-long events, ‘full of the spirit’ and rearing to change the world…

      …We had a meeting a couple of weeks back because it’s in crisis: particularly with its youth. People are leaving and dying and all their (evangelistic) projects are not working despite all the prayer (and you know how fervent that can be)! They are just not growing, however ‘relevant’ they are making themselves. Even collections have dropped (people have reduced their giving per capita), so I now work only part time.

      So, things don’t seem to be much better even where a large proportion of a congregation is switched on and knows what charisms are (in their sense).

      The new evangelization is new in ardour, method, and expression, but what can that mean? Many seem to be thinking what floats their boat (their mission) is ‘the’ mission for everyone. Is it? ‘If “people” just Xed, then our congregation would come alive’, they say, and before long there’s disagreement and division between these spirit-led experts and others.

      What if charisms were ‘discerned’ best ‘on the shop floor’ simply through getting to know each other better? Wouldn’t the answer present itself through the genuine exploration and discovery of interaction with real people in real situations rather than idealised selves and others in workshops even with roleplay (ewww!)?

      I can’t help thinking God always gives us the tools to do the job, ‘in situ’, through living out our ecclesiological vocation as Church. Simply by being in communion with each other. Where two or three are gathered in my name…? (Not in the Protestant sense!)

      The trouble with that approach is that one’s self cannot be at the centre and that one can forget any idea of immediate gratification of some sort of measurable success. :)

      But maybe, if we’re patient, a far deeper gratification might come from where we least expect it?

  2. mags says:

    They sound like wonderful ‘workshops’ for discerning, recognising and validating ones gifts, anything that helps to reveal our strengths, and shed light upon our weaker attributes, that we might strengthen them and utilise them for the greater good of God, is great work. Too many people (especially in England) are unsure of their strengths and weaknesses, due to our cultural reluctance to be generous with our thanksgiving, and often under handed with our praise and constructive criticism, which I think is a cultural thing, which indeed leaves us unknowing ourselves fully, especially with our lack of personal cultural discernment.

    However my little experience of a True Charism is something that comes through someone as apposed to revealing itself as one of their own gifts, or strengths, or even their weaknesses aspiring to be made perfect.

    A charism might be inherent to their deepest aspirations. It might be fuelled by their deepest inspirations, formed tangible from the deepest contemplation, and made manifest from the deepest inner dialogue. But I think on a far more intimate, and deeply subconscious and prayerful level a Charism ruminates in a souls deepest being, eventually articulating a deepest previously unfulfilled longing and knowing, that is months and years and many moons in its unfurling and emerging, before finally taking shape through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t think Charisms can neither be forged, nor contrived nor self-grown nor produced ~ but rather is like intense prayer kept simmering, reducing, concentrating, then becoming almost homeopathic until there is an absolute holistic strength permeating every imagining before its blessed manifestation.

    In fact I would say it is not of the person at all ~ but of God. God who is Love and Spirit.

  3. Paul Rodden says:

    As always, many of these articles give lots of food for thought.

    One thing that came to me last night about my unease about this article – as often it’s just something that ‘bugs me’ that doesn’t seem to be right, yet at the same time sounds great or ‘too good to be true’ – is that what’s being advocated in the article is that it sounds just too like the ‘Name It and Claim It’ mentality of those who preach a Prosperity Gospel, except in terms of Charisms.

    This Calvinist reflection on the issue makes the point best, I think:

  4. Paul Rodden says:

    OK. Maybe putting it this way, helps…

    My concern is what might be called the ‘Commodification of Grace’.
    For example, nearly every Sophia Institute Press book mentions it is ‘abridged’ and has ‘minor editorial revisions’.

    Now, if you have the originals (which in some cases I have) most of those ‘minor editorial revisions’ are to focus everything on ‘you’, when the original was neutral. Are they really that minor? Is it just because adding a three letter word – ‘you – doesn’t seem much (when it actually changes the whole dynamic of the sentence). Why this change? It even happens in the titles.

    For example, first published as ‘Holy Communion’, St Peter Julian Eymard’s book is now called, ‘How to Get More Out of Holy Communion’, and ‘The School of Love’ by Fr John Kane, is re-titled, ‘Transforming Your Life Through the Eucharist’. (But thank goodness at least they’re keeping these classics in print!)

    Now, the argument, no doubt, is that ‘it’s more likely to reach out to people’, but isn’t that exactly the point? Are we not kowtowing to culture? Are we changing the ‘content’ of people’s minds, but not the underlying paradigm (worldview)?

    To me, the Gospel is rooting out that underlying me-focused and instrumental/utilitarian paradigm, or have I got it completely wrong? If so, can someone show me where I am in error, please, because I want to be correct and not mislead people.

    Maybe I’m being miserable and dour, but this me-centered/’instrumentalistic’ view of Christianity is exactly what Protestantism does, doesn’t it? This is my concern with this ‘Personal Relationship’ language and the ‘workshop’ mentality. That somehow ‘we’ can change, ‘if only…’, and there is some sort of ‘technique’ in the order of grace, that growth in the spiritual life is beginning to be seen as a ‘technology’.

    When I look at the saints, they didn’t charge people for seminars and build a cottage industry, if not international business, around their Preaching and Evangelisation, did they? They did it within the realm of grace. Their joy was in the preaching, even if they lost out. The Gospel trumped their bank-balance, no? They preached and evangelised because it was in their belly, and God richly blessed them.

    Isn’t it wonderful that God works without the need for intelligence to understand experts and money to pay for workshops, so if you can’t afford a workshop, get to one, or even know they exist, he still works, quietly, behind the scenes on people’s souls?

    So, to argue, ‘But if you went on X seminar, you’d be so richly blessed and “grow” in your spiritual life’, just sounds fishy to me, if nothing else, but I’m open to any correction, and so why I should embrace the trend.

    Lastly, to clarify, in no way am I arguing a sort of passive, just ‘let’s see what happens’ , or ‘let go and let God’ view, but that of a pastoral sensitivity – that God gives us what we need, when we need it, and puts people in our path when they need it – and a concern about driving what might be an (our own) ideological agenda roughshod over people which might lose more by alienating than it saves.

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