Sunday, May 15, 2016


Some folks got it, some folks don't—So goes the common wisdom.  But what is it? The dictionary definition is "compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others." And that is certainly how it gets used in th world. Tall, good-looking, nicely dressed, with a big smile. Worst of all this kind of charisma is to inspire devotion to the person themselves, to make them famous, rich, or powerful.

But even in the Church the word has drifted away from its Biblical meaning. When you hear the word "charismatic" what do you think of? Loud music, clapping, shouting, emotionalism.  Silent mediation is not charismatic prayer, or is it?

The Greek word "chrisma" (χάρισμα) refers to a gift. For Christians it is a gift freely given to an indivual by God for the building up of the body of Christ, the Church. In Chapter 12 of St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he provides probably his fullest excursus on the topic. In verse 7 he says clearly 
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.

A charisma is a manifestation of the Spirit.  We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, to wash us from original sin and incorporate us into the body of Christ. It is at confirmation that we receive that Spirit again to empower us for our unique role in the building up of the body. 

St Paul gives a list of some of the gifts, but the list is not meant to limit the Spirit to these things. Nor are the gifts of the Holy Spirit to me confused with magic. (Suddenly I can play the piano) As St. Thomas Aquinas taught us, "Grace builds on nature." The Holy Spirit may augment a natural talent or personality trait. 

And even for those who are not confirmed, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at work in you right this minute. 

On this Solemnity of Pentecost, each of us needs to stop and take stock of the gifts that the Holy Siprit has given us.  Being a charismatic Christian has nothing to do with style of prayer. It is not done primarily in Church.  It has to do with using each and every charisma that God has given you to help others to experience the love of Christ, and the truth of the Gospel. 

All Christians should strive to be charismatic all the time, that our every word and action show the love of God to others.