Gifts of the Holy Spirit vs. Charisms. Are they different? In fact, they are! Each has a unique role and specialized functions within the Body of Christ.

Understanding the Distinction of Gifts vs. Charisms

Each cell of the human body contains its own system and structure. Similarly, as members of the body of Christ, we all share the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These gifts are innate to us, like the shared basic functions in a family. Baptism gives us the gifts and Confirmation stirs them up.

However, there is another aspect to our spiritual inheritance known as charisms. Think of these as specialized abilities or spiritual gifts bestowed upon us to fulfill specific roles within the Body. Charisms are the chores within a family that we do in service to one another.

Exploring the Analogy

Cells in the body have different attributes based on their location and function, charisms shape unique our spiritual identities. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are accessible to all. However, charisms are specific to each individual based on their gifts from the Holy Spirit. These charisms enable us to serve the family of God with our distinct talents and passions.

The Body of Christ lovingly embraces us as one of its own. Our charisms, or special roles, serve the family of God and our relationship with him.

Embracing Our Charisms

It is essential to recognize that charisms do not exclude but promote unity and collaboration within the family of God. Within this context, God encourages us to ask for the specific charisms that resonate with our interests and strengths.

However, we must remember that God is not a vending machine that automatically gives us what we want. Building a relationship with Him. Seeking His will. Aligning our desires with the purpose of building His Church. These are all vital in our journey of discovering and utilizing our charisms.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit vs. charisms– they interconnectedly and vitally help us on our journey. By understanding the distinction between the two, we can better appreciate our unique roles within the body of Christ. Our charisms equip us to play our part in serving the Church and one another.

Let us embrace our charisms, recognizing them as God’s intentional grace and power in our lives. By identifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit and our charisms, we allow Him to develop these gifts within us.

As we utilize our charisms, we will experience their transformative power in our own lives in those around us. Together, let us set forth on the path of discovering, nurturing, and utilizing our charisms.

Learn more at Many Parts Ministries.

Jill Simons [00:00:00]:

You. Hello and welcome to Charisms for Catholics. My name is Jill Simons and I’m the executive director at many parts ministries where we equip the body of Christ by helping people learn about and discern their charisms, which is really another word for spiritual gifts. When you discern your charisms, you’re able to see how the Holy Spirit is already active in your life and where he is inviting you to further build the church. Let’s dive in. Today we’re going to begin a sort of two part series where we’re going to be talking about the difference between charisms and the gifts of the Holy Spirit today. And then next time we’re going to talk about the difference between the fruits of the Holy Spirit and charisms. This is one of the most common questions I get.

Jill Simons [00:00:50]:

Either version asking what the difference is between the gifts of the Spirit and charisms. And this is a really important question and I think that this gives us a lot of context for looking at charisms as our function in the larger body of Christ. I think there’s several different analogies that are helpful, so I’m going to use a few different ones today. I’m going to do my best not to mix them together so that it gets confusing, but give you a couple of different options based on the biology of a body or looking at the family context of our relationship to God to try and figure out where all these things fit. So just as foundation the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there are seven of them. These come from Isaiah, Isaiah eleven and these have been talked about all throughout our history as a church. Thomas Aquinas talks about them at length in the Summa. They originally come from the translation in the Vulgate.

Jill Simons [00:01:53]:

And what those gifts are, are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. And this gets confusing obviously, because right there just listing them off, we have two things in the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are also charisms wisdom and knowledge. And so that’s where it gets really confusing if you don’t have kind of a holistic understanding of how all these things fit together. So looking at this idea of us as the body of Christ, we’re going to look at the natural analogy of biology that God himself gave us when he talks about there are many parts and all one body. And of course that’s where the name of our apostolate came from, is this idea that there are many parts and all one body. So when we’re looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the theology is that all of these are given as baptismal graces. So we talked about a couple of episodes ago this idea of Christmas morning where you have lots of presents under the tree. They’re different sizes, different wrappings, different types, but what unifies them is the fact that they’re all Christmas gifts for you so you think about your baptism, all of these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit were definitely under the tree.

Jill Simons [00:03:20]:

Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. They were all definitely there. Charisms are different for different people. So people might be specifically given a charism of wisdom, a charism of encouragement, a charism of administration all through the list of 24. The difference is that gifts of the Holy Spirit are really attributes and expressions of the Holy Spirit being present in a person. So this is like your basic, I’m going to say like cellular biology. If we’re looking at this body of Christ image, like what things are true about all cells in the body, they all have access to wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. Now where the cell is in the body is going to determine what other attributes it has and those are charisms.

Jill Simons [00:04:31]:

This is probably an advanced metaphor for me to be using because my cellular biology was like many years ago. But you think about there’s different systems and structures in cells and there’s some that all cells share and then there’s also other systems and structures that cells have based on what their function is. So you have similarities between a skin cell and a liver cell but you also have differences based on their function in the larger body. So these gifts of the Holy Spirit are really what is natural to us as being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, being in the body of Christ. In general, all cells of the body of Christ share these gifts of the Holy Spirit that essentially make us part of one body. But we are also given other gifts that specialize us to certain parts of the body and that is what charisms are. So the charisms are really our specialization within the larger body of charism whereas the gifts of the Holy Spirit are just natural to being a cell in the body at all. Like I said, another way to kind of understand that would be looking at this analogy of the family.

Jill Simons [00:05:55]:

We use this analogy a lot where God is the father and we are the children. And you’ve probably heard me say somewhere before, if you’ve been following along for any length of time that we are children in the family and that relationship is set and we don’t have to worry or work our way into the family. But charisms are like our chores. That’s what we’ve been asked to do within the larger family, to serve the family and so those are going to be specialized to each of us looking at the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the things that we receive as just a natural part of being in the family. So this is more like your basic roles that everybody shares, right? So maybe every single member of the family takes their plate to the sink after a meal or everybody needs to put their shoes away or everybody needs to keep their own room clean or maybe hang up their own laundry. This is something that is a natural part of being in the family, shared by everyone. Whereas charisms are again, that specialization same as in the biological analogy.

Jill Simons [00:07:10]:

It is where we are specialized into a certain role that we have been given very special intentional grace, special intentional power to be able to carry out. So that’s not something that’s shared equally among all people. But that said, I think that it’s helpful to remember that we can ask for anything. We can ask God for anything, especially all of the good gifts that he wants to give us. So we can always ask for a greater outpouring of these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We can always ask for a greater expression of those in our lives. And I’ve been told to do that actually in some very helpful confessions by some wonderful priests saying, why don’t you pray for a greater outpouring of this specific gift of the Holy Spirit to help you in this area where you’re struggling? We can do that all the time and know that we have full access to all seven of those through the nature of who we are and the relationship we are in with God. Now, charisms, it’s not a given that we are going to have access to all of them in their fullness, but we can still ask for any of them that we want.

Jill Simons [00:08:28]:

So even though charisms are kind of a specialization within the body of Christ, it’s not in a way that’s meant to exclude people or be exclusive. Like you’re not good enough to encourage people. We’re not going to give you that one. We can ask for whatever we have an interest in. And so if there’s a charism that really excites you or really makes you excited about the growth of the larger church and you don’t feel like you have already received it, that’s a great thing to pray for. That’s a way to just embrace that role as a child in the body of Christ where when you are a child, hopefully there should not be any fear around asking something of your parents. You probably know that they might not say yes, but you’re not afraid to ask them. And that’s what we want to have with God, where he’s not a vending machine, where it’s just going to automatically spit out whatever it is we want.

Jill Simons [00:09:26]:

But we can trust that there’s more than enough space in that relationship for us to ask for what we want, especially when it’s underpinned by that greater desire to build the church and to collaborate in the family of God. And so really we want to be seeking on a regular basis the fullness of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us. And so it’s helpful to realize that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, all of those seven things the Holy Spirit parts to do and bring about in us and has given us what we need to bring about those things. But sometimes they get kind of lost, right? Go back to that Christmas analogy, christmas morning when they’re fresh and brand new on baptism or fanned into flame at confirmation, they’re right there. But sometimes over the course of time, things get lost sifted to the bottom of the toy bin. And we can feel like we’ve lost our ability to access one of those gifts when in reality we’ve just kind of lost track of it. And so that’s when we ask the Holy Spirit to kind of reenkindle that in us, like those priests asked me to do at the end of confession, just, Holy Spirit, help me find where that got put, because it’s not at the forefront like you are inviting me to make it. It’s not something that I’m using on a daily basis.

Jill Simons [00:10:50]:

So you can know that those seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are something that the Holy Spirit wants you to have, has given you when you are baptized. And then you can also put that side by side with what you discern your likely charisms are. And know also that those are places that the Holy Spirit is active in your life and gifts that he has given you, that he wants to further inflame in you. And so all of this is really about that step one of identification that we talk about. It’s not the most important thing in the world that you’re focusing on, okay, I have the gift of wisdom, but not the charism of wisdom. So I need to use it this way and not that way. That’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is seeing that the Holy Spirit is active in you, that there are things that the Holy Spirit both is doing in you and wants to do in you even more, further press into the more that God has.

Jill Simons [00:11:49]:

And so I disambiguate these because it’s an interesting question, it’s a helpful question, but it’s not to get caught up in the weeds of, oh, is this a gift or is this a charism or where does that sit? And getting kind of distracted by the nuance there. Regardless of which side of the column it falls on, if it’s something that is a gift of the Holy Spirit or you have discerned to be a charism, it’s something the Holy Spirit wants to use. And so those analogies hopefully are helpful in kind of theologically understanding how these things fit together. But in the execution, it’s most important to just be docile to the Holy Spirit, to just let Him be the one, to kind of set the agenda and show you what he wants to do. And you can know for a fact that those seven gifts are something that he wants to fan into flame in you. If this was helpful, feel free to leave a review that helps more people find our podcast, and we would love to also hear from you both in the reviews or send us an email about what it is that you would like to hear us cover further on the podcast. We’ll talk to you soon. Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics.

Jill Simons [00:13:05]:

If you would like to learn more about your charisms or begin your own discernment journey, head to our website@manypartsministries.com, where you can download our free PDF guide to all 24 charisms and also begin your own journey by taking our Charism assessment.