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When we think of saints, it’s often their miraculous deeds or grand gestures that come to mind. However, in the latest episode of “Charisms for Catholics,” host Jill Simons and guest Theresa Zoe Williams delve into the lives of saints who embody the charism of service. This spiritual gift often goes unnoticed but is essential to the functioning of the Church. Let’s explore the inspiring lives of these humble heroes.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: Royalty in Service

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary remarkably integrates her royal status with profound service. As a princess, her compassion for the poor was unwavering. She famously turned bread into roses when accused of stealing from the palace to help the needy. Widowed young, Elizabeth used her dowry to build a hospital, literally serving the sick and the poor. Her life flips the script on what it means to be royalty, showing us that even those in high positions can serve humbly.

Saint Vincent de Paul: The Patron of Charitable Societies

Saint Vincent de Paul’s dedication to serving the poor transcended his lifetime, establishing him as a hallmark of service. He quietly attended to the immediate needs of the impoverished, founding numerous orders and organizations known today as the Vincentian Family. These groups serve in varied capacities, from education to healthcare, ensuring that Vincent’s legacy of humble service continues to flourish.

Saint Damien of Molokai: A Life Given to the Lepers

Saint Damien of Molokai volunteered to serve on a remote Hawaiian island, where lepers were isolated. Unlike others who shied away from the contagious disease, Damien embraced the lepers, attending to their needs and eventually contracting leprosy himself. His service brought dignity to those ostracized by society, demonstrating the transformative power of selfless love.

Saint Thomas More: Serving God’s Truth

Though often remembered as a martyr, Saint Thomas More’s life also embodies the charism of service. Serving as Lord High Chancellor of England, he stood firm in his faith against King Henry VIII’s separation from the Church. Thomas More’s famous last words, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first,” encapsulate his commitment to serving divine truth above all else.

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: Going the Extra Mile

Young Jesuit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga faced a plague outbreak in Rome with extraordinary dedication. Not content with merely working in a hospital, he begged for alms and personally carried the sick from the streets. His proactive service showcases the depths of the charism of service, going beyond one’s immediate duties to meet the needs of others.

The Diversity of Service

Service as a charism isn’t confined to a single expression; it adapts to the needs at hand. From Saint Elizabeth’s royal compassion to Saint Damien’s ultimate self-sacrifice, these saints show us that true service often goes unnoticed but leaves an indelible mark on the world.

Looking Ahead

As we continue to explore the charisms in the lives of saints, stay tuned for our next episode, which will delve into prophetic charisms—another vital but often misunderstood gift of the Spirit. Whether you’re seeking inspiration or deeper understanding, join us on this journey to uncover how these spiritual gifts can shape a life of sanctity.
For those looking to discern their own charisms, Many Parts Ministries offers resources and assessments to help you identify and nurture these God-given gifts. Visit manypartsministries.com to start your own journey today.
In the spirit of the saints we discussed, let us see what needs to be done and do it, embodying the true essence of the charism of service.

Jill Simons:
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. Welcome back to today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics. I am excited to be continuing our series on matching saints to charisms. And today, we’re gonna be talking about the charism of service, which specifically looks at that ability to see what needs to be done and to fill the need. So this is one of the great unsung heroes of the Church, this charism, that is the reason that, folding chairs get put away and events happen and registration tables have name tags on them and all of these little details of executing the functions of the like of the Church that are necessary to its continuance.

Jill Simons:
And so it’s very, very common for people with a service charism to undervalue their charism and chronically. This can happen across the board with charisms, but I see it really frequently with service because people are like, oh, anyone could do that. Anyone could see that need. But but the reality of the situation is that most people don’t. Most people won’t recognize the need or won’t recognize how to fill it or won’t have that highlighting happening by the saints who are anything but boring, saints that aren’t just kind of, well, anyone could do that kind of people that are operating in this service charism that can renew our minds about what it looks like to take this service charism to the fullest extent of its ability to really stretch into the saint that God is calling you to be, specifically, through an execution of service. So to talk about that with me here today, I have Theresa Zoe Williams, who is one of our staff members here at Many Parts Ministries and brings way more saint knowledge to the table than I do. So I’m just as excited as you guys are to learn from her each week about new saints and the charisms that they have. So thank you so much for being here with me, Theresa.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Thank you for having me. It’s always such a pleasure.

Jill Simons:
So we’re gonna kick off with Saint Elizabeth of Hungary today, and I’d love for you to share about her and how service was really lived in her life.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. So I love Saint Elizabeth for service because she was a princess. And we don’t think of royalty as being the most service oriented people, but she really turns that on its head. She always gave alms to the poor, even royal robes and ornaments when she was married. She was married at a very young age and then also widowed by the time she was 20. But before she was widowed, she always gave to the poor, always was working in a hospital, serving the sick. She was always doing these things. And a really famous story of Elizabeth of Hungary is the miracle of the roses and the bread, where she was going out with bread in her robes to give it to the poor, from the palace.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And she was stopped along the way by, it was either her husband or her her brother-in-law, who was really upset that they thought they were gonna catch her stealing from the palace. Because some some in the palace were pretty ornery. They were against her giving this, so much to the poor. They thought it was unbecoming of royalty. So they really thought they were gonna get her in the act here. And when she was told to open her cloak, and when she did, roses fell out, instead of bread. And all of the people, all of the men gathered there, like, were in awe and knew that this woman was doing holy work, from this miracle. And famously too, her husband was always very supportive of her giving alms.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He was like he didn’t participate in it, but he didn’t stop her and he encouraged her in that. So, actually, her husband probably had the charism of encouragement. But when if it was him this story is buried. The legend varies a little bit. If it was him that was with the men who stopped her, he asked her to do it as a show of respect for his kingship. And she did. And God came through for her. But then she was widowed when she was only 20 years old.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And through, some politics, of course, she regained her dowry, which at the time women had to have a dowry of money, a a certain amount of money to get married, to build, like, the foundation for the marital life. But she regained it because she was widowed so young, and there was opportunity for her to be married again. But instead, she used it to build a hospital. She just went out and she knew what the needs of her community were and she knew they needed a hospital. So she built the hospital with her dowry. She never married again. She worked at this hospital, and she served the poor and the sick there. And so I just I love her, because she she turns the whole idea of royalty on its head, really showing that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And, like, Christ shows us as, you know, the Prince of Peace, the the God of the universe, it’s about serving each other first, and that’s how we come to glory. So she’s just such a great model of that.

Jill Simons:
Yeah. That’s awesome. And then Saint Vincent DePaul that we’re gonna talk about next. This is one that even non-Catholics think of in conjunction with service because of the magnitude of what was founded in his wake. So I’d love for you to share about that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
So St. Vincent de Paul dedicated himself to serving the poor in whatever capacity they needed. So he did all kinds of things. And we hear about St. Vincent de Paul Societies now and all that. He founded the Vincentian Vincentian, excuse me, me, family of orders and organizations. So he made the first couple. He founded the first couple with other people and, gave kind of a a way of life to everyone. And then they went out.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
It’s a it’s a whole network now of different organizations and orders, that serve different aspects of life. And pretty much any aspect of life, you can find a Vincentian who does it. Like, if you need hospitals, if you need education, if you need alms, whatever it is, there’s there’s a Vincentian for that. So I really I love him because, I mean, his life isn’t very grand at all. Like, he didn’t have any big miracles during his lifetime, like the miracle of the bread and the roses or, you know, he didn’t do anything super huge. He just went out and served what was who was in front of him. Whatever the needs that needed to be met, he found a way to meet those needs. And that he really embodies service in that way.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And then his foundations and orders and organizations all go out and and do that in his name now because that is what he was of, and who he was.

Jill Simons:
That is awesome. I love the fact that so many of these people lived with such an example that it inspires then whole organizations of other random people truly, like, not people that didn’t know them to model their lives after them and this kind of service and giving this space really to all of these people who likely if if you’re attracted to serving in a Vincentian order, then it’s highly likely that service is one of your charisms as well. So it creating this opportunity for this structure to exist, to assist in the application of this gift that he’s been given. Similar to how we see with Elizabeth Ann Seton last week, we talked about teaching, creating this system in which, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands of teachers have thrived since then. And it’s just really beautiful because that isn’t necessarily something that is kind of an easy ask going along with service, you know, founding something large and or same with teaching. But it shows us once there’s kind of that fear of risk removed, what is possible even from humble places when we really just listen for what the next thing is that God has for us. So that’s really beautiful. Similar to our next saint, Saint Damien of Molokai, listening to what God has specifically for you.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Yes. So Damien volunteered to go to a remote island in Hawaii where the kingdom of Hawaii was secluding everyone who had contracted leprosy. And serve those people. Because, basically, they were put on this island to die, just so that no one else would get it. They were put here. You guys can just die, and then we’ll live life. And Damien saw the cruelty in that, and went and served those people. And, he actually contracted leprosy himself.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He also had tuberculosis. So they kind of played together and brought him down. But he did everything for these people with leprosy. He bathed them. He fed them. He clothed them. With what medicine they did have, he would heal the their ailments. And the king of Hawaii at the time didn’t even wanna send anyone to these people because he thought it was a lost cause, and Damien volunteered, out of his order to go.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And everybody thought he was crazy, and he probably was. You you have to be very special to not be concerned with the risk. There’s a story of Saint Francis too where he went and embraced a leper, that he had been so disgusted by because he finally saw Christ in that person, and he was no longer afraid of contracting leprosy. And Francis famously didn’t contract leprosy. But Damien shows us that even if there is the risk involved, even if you do succumb to the same thing that you are helping to alleviate, what beauty comes from that, what goodness comes from that. He literally became one of his people in everything. And he served them until the day he died, which so he served them for 11 years doing the menial things, and everything for them. And because of that, the kingdom of Hawaii stopped sending people with leprosy off to this island and, started treating them wherever they were.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Wow. Because they found they finally saw that these people didn’t lose their dignity, because of a disease they contracted. And, you know, modern medicine is helpful too, coming into play here and, advances in medicine so that they didn’t have to be so afraid of it either. But Damien literally gave up his life for these people, literally became them to serve them and to show that they still had this dignity.

Jill Simons:
I love that. I absolutely love that. And it’s interesting that you put the next one in with service. Saint Thomas More, I think we a lot of us would think of him in a lot of specific ways and not necessarily in service, but I love how you mapped this out. So I’d love for you to share with us about that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Saint Thomas More always served. He served Henry the eighth as the Lord High Chancellor of England. And so he his service charisms started in his job, really. And it was a secular. Well, at the time, I guess it wouldn’t have been so secular. They were intertwined, the faith and the and the England, at the time. But then the Protestant Reformation happened, and Saint Thomas More opposed that and then refused to take the oath of supremacy when Henry the 8th broke off from the Catholic Church. And because of this, he was convicted of treason. I mean, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and was beheaded and all of this.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
And, you know, the King was really fond of Thomas More. He really loved him, and he didn’t want to see his friend go down this way. He wanted to keep his friend alive. And so he tried to convince Thomas on several occasions to take the oath or, like, how he could do both really, like, say publicly he’s doing this with the king, but privately keep his Catholic faith. He the king tried all kinds of different things to get Thomas to come around, basically. And Thomas stood fast and that he has to serve God first, and he knew that what Henry the eighth was doing was wrong. And this is when he divorced Catherine of Aragorn for is she the next one? Mhmm. I think so.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
I get the Annes confused. Yeah. Married to Anne. But Thomas stood fast and and always served God first. So if it wasn’t going to promote the goodness of God in God’s kingdom, then Thomas wanted no part of it. And so he was beheaded. And the last thing that he was recorded of him saying was, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” So he never gave up on his king.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He never stopped serving Henry the eighth in the way that he knew was right. So by trying to get Henry to come around, by trying to get Henry to be subservient to the Church, to the faith, and not take matters into his own hands just because they weren’t going the way he wanted them to. And in that way, he really did serve his friend, the king, because he was constantly that example right up until his death. And I would say knowing what we know about Henry the eighth, there’s probably that shadow of being haunted by that example for the rest of Henry’s life. He never really got out from under that. You know? And that’s a good thing. It should weigh on your conscience. But Thomas never lorded it over him or never pretended that he was a better person than the king.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He just simply this is the right way, and we have to follow that right way no matter what. Yeah. And that example hopefully, played a a large part in Henry’s internal life, really not his public life.

Jill Simons:
Well, I love that iteration of service, and we talk all the time about it being seeing what needs to be done and doing it. And that is such a beautiful expression of, like, somebody needed to do this. Somebody needed to stand up and oppose what was wrong and objectively bad for the king and be a voice kind of making that clear. So I just really I really, really love that. I’d love for you because I have zero confidence in saying the name of the saints the next saint. I’m gonna let you say it and share with us about our last saint for service here.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Okay. This is Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. If that’s too hard to say, Aloysius is just a Latinization of the name Louis or Luigi.

Jill Simons:
Wow. I did not know that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
So if you have a particular devotion to this saint and you’d love to name a child after him, you do not have to name your child Aloysius. You can name him Lewis, and it’ll be okay. I love it. It’s the same name, just in different languages. What’s cool about Aloysius is that a plague broke out in Rome when he was alive, and he was part of the Jesuits. And so the Jesuits opened a hospital for the people there. And Aloysius volunteered to work in a hospital, he went even further than that. He begged for alms for victims of this plague and carried the sick from the streets into the hospital.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
He didn’t have to do those things just because he volunteered to work in the hospital. But he went the extra mile because he knew that these victims needed things that he couldn’t provide, so he went out and found them and really served them in that way. And I love that about Aloysius.

Jill Simons:
That’s awesome. Yeah. And to, again, just the the diversity of the service saints speaks to, I think, that diversity we so commonly see in the expressions of service. That it really isn’t a, this is the lane, whereas some other charisms, there’s a lot more uniformity in how it’s executed. Writing, for instance, they’re all writing books, writing things, and we’re able to say, here’s what they wrote. As opposed to service, it’s so much more responsive and they just did what they were called upon to do within the time. And that just brings so much power to that.

Theresa Zoe Williams:
Service really is looking at what’s in front of you and what needs to be done. Mhmm. It’s not necessarily a big picture thing, although it can be. But it’s really about whatever the needs are that are right in front of you, finding a way to meet them.

Jill Simons:
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for being with us this week. We have another episode coming in 2 weeks on prophecy. This is one that I know so many of you with prophetic charisms are like, I need more information. I need more help. Give me more inspiration about how to live this out. So we’re gonna be looking at 4 saints next week of that will or I should say in 2 weeks that are gonna help us kind of break open this idea of prophecy and what it looks like in the lived life of a saint. So thanks for being with us.

Jill Simons:
We will see you again next week. Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics. If you would like to learn more about your charisms or begin your own discernment journey, head to our website at manypartsministries.com Ministries you can download our free PDF guide to all 24 charisms and also begin your own journey by taking our charism assessment.