Fr. JOHN REDFORD
A step-by-step beginners’ guide to the Catholic faith
Each of us has some talent (music, do-it-yourself, knitting) which benefits not only ourselves and makes us feel we have achieved something, but which we also gives enjoyment or help to someone else. A great cause of unhappiness in the world is when people feel their talents are not being used, or where their work is uninteresting or apparently futile.
Christ, our Lord told the parable of the talents. The ‘good’ people who make their talents profitable are commended while the man who received only one talent is rebuked for not making anything out of his gift. Christ is saying that all of us, however useless we may feel ourselves to be, have been given gifts by God which we should try to use to the full.
But the Christian is not only given natural talents (sports or hobbies) but also spiritual gifts, to use for the benefit of the whole Church, the ‘body of Christ’. Since each of us are members of that body, we have an essential part to play in the life of the Church.
The sacrament which gives us the strength and the help to develop these spiritual talents (and indeed our natural talents when used in the service of God) is the sacrament of Confirmation. The bishop, or a priest designated by the bishop, lays his hands on the Christian, just as the apostles laid hands on the first Christians, and prays for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given to them, as it was first given on the day of Pentecost.
Some of these gifts are quite extraordinary, like speaking in strange tongues, curing people of sickness, being able to see into the future (called ‘prophecy’) and casting out evil spirits. All these gifts have been present in the Church, and are particularly associated with people who are close to God.
But not only people with extraordinary talents are the Church’s ‘charismatics’. Priests receive the Holy Spirit at ordination, and their particular gift is to be leaders of the community in the name of Christ. Monks and nuns, called to live a life of prayer and contemplation, are filled with the desire to pray for their own salvation, and for ours. This strong desire is also a charism given by the Holy Spirit.
Another special gift from the Holy Spirit is the wish to give up everything for Christ, even things which are generally helpful to our life; property, freedom, and marriage. Thus, all down the centuries, men and women have taken vows of poverty (giving up the right to own material goods), chastity (giving up the right to marriage), and obedience (giving up the right to make decisions about one’s life, but doing simply what others in the community want, and so like Christ being servant to all).
As we saw earlier, marriage is a sacrament where the couple receive the help of Christ in their life together, not only for their own good, but also to build up a family of God. This is truly a vocation, just as much as those who take the ‘vows’, and for this the Holy Spirit is also given.
Finally, there are hundreds of spiritual talents which all exist for the building up of the body of Christ; mercy (giving up other things to nurse the sick, or feed the hungry); knowledge and faith )wanting to teach the Christian faith to others); reverence (filling us with the wish to be with God and to face life’s difficulties in his presence).
And the greatest charism of all, as Paul said, is love, that same love which enabled Christ our Lord to die and rise again for us.