Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 1, 2022

God does NOT give Charisms to All the Baptized! (He does give all that is needed.)

Yes, consider the above spoken strongly and loudly.  I hope that some of the many who were taught otherwise, will hear me, read this, and rethink it.  Many were and are still being taught, by educated teachers, lay and clergy, that “the Church teaches that all the Baptized are given at least one charism.”  This is wrong.  I hope in this essay to demonstrate that the Catholic Church teaches that God – the Holy Spirit –  gives some of the baptized special graces called graces gratis datae, or graces freely given, or charisms.  Some – not all.

As one example of the contrary, this is a Question/Answer on the website of a widely received ministry promoting charisms among clergy and laity:

Question: Are all Baptized Christians given charisms?

Answer: Yes. According to Catholic teaching, it is the faith of the Church that you possess one or more of the charisms (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 951).

1) The Catechism.

Note Catechism 951 does not exactly say that, but rather: 

Catechism 951 – Communion of charisms. Within the communion of the Church, the Holy Spirit “distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” for the building up of the Church.<LG 12 # 2> Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”<1 Cor 12:7>

That is, the Holy Spirit distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank for the building up of the Church, in such a way that to everyone the Spirit is manifested for the common good.  Charisms are distributed “among the faithful of every rank” is not the same as, “Charisms are given to all of the faithful of every rank.”  Nor does St. Paul in 1 Corinthians say “to each is given a charism of the Spirit…” but rather he says “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit…”. 

Consider for example, when someone – who has been given a charism of healing – is led by God to exercise that grace and one or more people are healed. The result is that to all of those involved, the healer and the healed, the Holy Spirit has been manifested.  This is the way that every charism is intended to bless and to build up the whole church, for the common good.  To some are given the special supernatural graces of charisms, to bless and help build up in different ways some or many others, so that to each and all the love of God in the Holy Spirit is being manifested.

2) Catholic Teaching.

Recently our current Pope Francis said this (emphasis added by me):

The charisms are special graces, given to some for the good of many others. .… In particular, these spiritual gifts further the sanctity of the Church and her mission. (1)

“Given to some” is certainly not the same as “given to all” – “given to all” is an error still being spread. 

A Pope of several centuries ago, Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) in a study of charisms among those canonized by the Church (2), saw that some of the canonized servants of God did – and some did not – show any record of supernatural charisms in their lives on earth, but all were found holy and were canonized. Note this study gathers understandings on this issue from several theologians and saints:

[Francisco] Suarez [S,J.,1548–1617] adds, that graces gratis datae [charisms] are bestowed on the just, though not upon all, because it is not necessary for the general good of the Church that all the just should minister to others, or that they should be raised up by a special grace to work for the good of others, as may be seen in the place referred to, where he alleges the illustrious authority of St. Augustine (3) who says, “These are not given to all the saints, lest the weak should be deceived in a most fatal error, thinking that greater blessings consist in them [in the charisms] than in works of justice, by which eternal life is obtained.” 

It seems, then, to be a good conclusion to draw from this, that silence is not to be imposed on the cause of a servant of God, in which graces gratis datae are not proved, provided there be proof of virtues in the heroic degree. Therefore, St. John Chrysostom, after saying that it was necessary to bestow them when the preaching of the gospel commenced, thus continues: ” Let us fear, then, beloved brethren, and bestow great pains on the ordering of our life; and let us not think that we have less, because now we do no miracles. We shall receive no more on account of miracles, as we shall not receive less because we perform none, if we apply ourselves to all virtues. We are not debtors to miracles, but for a good life and good works we have God for our debtor.” 

And this so much the more, for in no Bull of canonization, or Report of the Auditors of the Rota, is omitted the mention of virtues and miracles after death; some speak of graces gratis datae, but in others there is profound silence on the subject; from this it may be argued that some canonizations have been decreed, although the servants of God and the blessed, during their lifetime, received no graces gratis datae [charisms] from God. 

3) Conclusion

If “the servants of God and the blessed, during their lifetime, received no graces gratis datae [charisms] from God” (following the writing of Pope Benedict XIV) along with the support of Theologian Francisco Suarez, S.J., and along with the Saints and Doctors of the Church Thomas Aquinas, Augustine and Chrysostom, and we have heard our own Pope Francis tell us the same thing – if all these say that charisms are given to some and not all, I think we can say, charisms are given to some but not all.  

Furthermore, I hope we can all see God’s wisdom in ordering matters of grace this way.  It seems to be God’s way, to choose and bless the few, and then send them to bless the many.  In this way God chooses to provide for and to serve us all, especially those poor, whom He loves, to gather them/us into His own.

To clarify further, there are addressed here two kinds of grace: first, sanctifying grace given at Baptism for our justification, sanctification and salvation.  Sanctifying grace makes us a member of His Body, a participant in His Life.  Then, second, there can be the grace of a charism, given (if given) in God’s time, for God’s purpose, when and if He chooses to give it, and until when or if He chooses to remove it.  A grace of charism is given to a recipient for a need in the Church – a need in another to help him in his path to Christ.  A charism cannot give salvation to another, but it can point him to the One who can give Him salvation: Jesus Christ. 

Of these two kinds of grace, the first – in possession and in importance – is sanctifying grace, and this must be and remain our first in attention, our priority.  Sanctifying grace begins the life of Christ in a human person, and is ordered to growth in Christ, to maturity in Christ, to fruitfulness in Christ!  To neglect our own life in Christ to be preoccupied with the needs of others, is to be like busy Martha and not like her wise, prudent and prayerful sister Mary:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

If a Christian becomes overly concerned with what he can do for Christ, and becomes unconcerned with who he is in Christ and what he lacks of Christ, then he, like Martha, remains anxious and troubled – and remains too much in himself.  As John the Baptist learned, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30). This dying to self and living to Christ is possible only in the essential activity of sanctifying grace, and the virtues of supernatural faith, hope and holy charity, and the seven supernatural infused and abiding gifts of the Holy Spirit given “in seed form” at Baptism: 

Catechism 1831 – The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.<Cf. Isa 11:1-2> They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. 

These gifts of the Spirit will bring forth fruit for all the faithful and diligent, in due season, fruit that will remain, to the merit of these who live them in obedience to our Lord.

Endnotes:

(1) Pope Francis, General Audience Address November 6, 2013

(2) This study is recorded in “Heroic Virtue: A Portion Of The Treatise Of Benedict XIV On The Beatification And Canonization Of The Servants Of God, Volume 3.”  This includes discussion on the place of charisms, or graces gratis datae (graces freely given) in the examinations of the virtues of the servants of God.

(3) The quote from Augustine, in his commentary on Mt. 24:24, cited above by Pope Benedict XIV, is expanded and found in the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas.


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks again for another helpful blog article. There is confusion in the hearts and minds of many, these days, about Church teaching and/or current trends. Your study of the Church Fathers and Saints concerning the subject of Charisms is thorough and clear. I hope many will read it prayerfully.

    It is being published on the First Day of June, the Month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and also it is the Memorial of St. Justin Martyr an early Christian who followed the Lord even unto death, as we are all called to do. May God’s abundant Grace enable us to do His Will as Jesus and Mary did.

    • I have to second with a strong “Amen!” your beautiful closing sentence, as did Susan in her comment.
      May God’s abundant Grace enable us to do His Will as Jesus and Mary did. Intentional, loving obedience – a heart-following in holy union – is a flowering in God’s Garden of His Creation.

  2. Absolutely beautiful Thomas. Deb your last sentence is perfect: May God’s abundant Grace enable us to do His Will as Jesus and Mary did. Thank you Thomas, for helping fill my heart with knowledge and truth of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

    • Thank you for your comments, Susan. You have left so many comments, over the years, all greatly appreciated! In this case, awareness of the holy and saving will of God is crucially important. If we do not know His will, we cannot intentionally do it. When we do come, more and more, to know Him and His Sacred Heart, how beautiful it is to want to live in Him.

  3. I was not clear on the meaning of charisma, until I thoroughly read your blog. (A little deep for my uneducated mind.) But I do believe that you & Deborah possess charisma’s because you constantly work at teaching so many the truth of our faith.🙏

    • Thank you for your comments, Janet – especially for helping me see that I should have better explained these two kinds of grace much earlier in the article! These two paragraphs in the Catechism may be helpful also to others who were a bit confused, at least at first, by the terms in the blog: 1) sanctifying grace, and 2) charisms, or charismatic graces, or graces of charismatic gifts. (Theologians call these second kinds of grace, “graces gratis datae” or “graces freely given“. Here are the two Catechism references:

      2023 Sanctifying grace is the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.
      2024 Sanctifying grace makes us “pleasing to God.” Charisms, special graces of the Holy Spirit, are oriented to sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. …..

      Charismatic graces are good, because they give a person an ability beyond his own natural gifts and talents, to point others to Christ for salvation and sanctification in Him. Charismatic graces are good, but sanctifying grace is essential. Without Sanctifying grace we are spiritually dead! With sanctifying grace we can live and grow in Christ, and offer ourselves to Him in faithful lives and in Holy Love. We can become saints, in and with sanctifying grace, never having or needing any charismatic graces. (This was the conclusion of Pope Benedict XIV’s, in his study of causes for sainthood, included in the blog.) If and when God decides, in His perfect wisdom and love, that special extra graces (charismatic graces) are needed or desired, He gives them.

  4. With respect, sir, you are cherry picking to make the sources fit your thesis. In fact, the CCC says quite clearly that the charisms are given to all members of the Church:

    #800 – “Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.”

    • Thank you for your comment, Fr. Bowen, but the Catechism passage you refer to is being misinterpreted. Certainly authentic charisms given by the Holy Spirit are to be accepted by all members of the Church – some directly and some indirectly. For example, a person entrusted with a charism of healing can bless many who become healed through him, and through the healer and the healed, all others can be blessed by witnessing or learning of God’s work come among us all. In this way God, as is His way, chooses a few to be a blessing for many, and in this way all are to be drawn to Him.

      St. Augustine saw the reason for this, as the blog points out. He wrote, “These are not given to all the saints, lest the weak should be deceived in a most fatal error, thinking that greater blessings consist in them [in the charisms] than in works of justice, by which eternal life is obtained.” This is why charismatic graces – which cannot save – are inferior to sanctifying graces – which bring salvation. Jordon Aumann, in his book Spiritual Theology, points this out, citing Augustine: “Since the graces gratis datae are something independent of sanctity, it is not necessary that all the saints should have received them.”

      I am greatly concerned about this error in spiritual theology being spread, because what is happening in practice is that parishes are greatly emphasizing charismatic gifts, which cannot save, and neglecting the three theological virtues and the (Isaiah 11:2-3) seven Gifts/Spirits of the Holy Spirit which are given in Baptism, in potency, which can save and which must be guarded and grown toward our vocation to holiness.

      The great focus on charisms is leading the people to focus on outward manifestations of the Spirit (which can be helpful), while neglecting inner workings of the Spirit which are essential. This reminds me of the faulty focus of the pharisees on the outward, to the neglect of the things within: “first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Mt 23:26). If we, today, sought to grow and mature the gifts of the Spirit that perfect the virtues of faith, hope and charity, we would be truly leading the people toward sanctity; we would be faithful to the call to “holiness and the perfection of charity” – we would be making good fruit – holy works in His name – possible.

      III. THE GIFTS AND FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
      1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
      1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.(Cf. Isa 11:2-3) They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

      I wrote a book to help Catholics understand the treasure of Catholic spirituality better, in an introductory book The Ordinary Path to Holiness. It is described in this Blog HERE, and offered on Amazon HERE.

      • With respect, you are confusing two forms of grace. The catechism references that you are giving have to do with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, not the charismatic gifts.

        Aquinas makes this distinction in the summa:
        “And thus there is a twofold grace: one whereby man himself is united to God, and this is called ‘sanctifying grace’; the other is that whereby one man cooperates with another in leading him to God, and this gift is called ‘gratuitous grace,’ since it is bestowed on a man beyond the capability of nature, and beyond the merit of the person. But whereas it is bestowed on a man, not to justify him, but rather that he may cooperate in the justification of another, it is not called sanctifying grace. And it is of this that the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 12:7): ‘And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto utility,; i.e. of others.” I-II, q 111, a1

        The sanctifying graces (which include the seven gifts of the spirit) are exactly what they sound like – they’re for the sanctification of individual members of the baptized. Charisms, on the other hand are gratuitous graces given for the sake of others, for the building of the Body of Christ as Paul says in 1 Cor 12.

        These two forms of grace are not exclusive of one another. In fact, for a baptized person to use the charisms fruitfully, he/she needs to be receiving the sanctifying graces as well. Aquinas even says this in response to the third objection of the above article:
        “Sanctifying grace adds to the notion of gratuitous grace something pertaining to the nature of grace, since it makes man pleasing to God. And hence gratuitous grace which does not do this keeps the common name, as happens in many other cases; and thus the two parts of the division are opposed as sanctifying and non-sanctifying grace.”

        Your confusion of these two forms of grace is what renders your analysis incorrect.

      • No, I am not at all confused. You rightly distinguish the two – we agree, they are very different. Our difference concerns the matter of the distribution of charisms – whether all receive them, or not. Did you read the blog essay? Did you note the research done by Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) in a study of charisms among those canonized by the Church:

        … in no Bull of canonization, or Report of the Auditors of the Rota, is omitted the mention of virtues and miracles after death; some speak of graces gratis datae, but in others there is profound silence on the subject; from this it may be argued that some canonizations have been decreed, although the servants of God and the blessed, during their lifetime, received no graces gratis datae [charisms]from God.

        Did God change His distribution plan, from then to now? I urge you to research this matter more thoroughly, and set aside for now the current tidal wave of parishes and dioceses all claiming that all receive charisms, most basing their confidence on one another’s affirmations.

        I don’t think I can convince you that this modern belief is, granted, widespread, but nevertheless wrong. And the error is having serious and detrimental consequences among the members. Parishes are all aboard on charisms, and all absent on serious catechesis on the virtues and the gifts that bring eternal life. St. Paul reminds us – charisms are extra; the virtues essential, the habitual graces of the seven Isaiah gifts that perfect the virtues are necessary for holiness:

        1Cor 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
        1Cor 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

        And here, btw, the knowledge and faith spoken of are the charisms, not the abiding gifts with the same names, that sanctify.

        We need to stop this here, however. Please do study the issue further. If you write more here, I won’t publish it but I will correspond with you privately. Thank you for your concerns.


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