Gifts for Uncertain Times

Brothers and Sisters,

Sometimes it is good to revisit the basics when we have come to a plateau in our lives.  When a sports team begins practice in preparation for the upcoming season they start with the basics.  Getting really good at the basics is key to performing at peak levels in sports, playing a musical instrument, writing, etc. This is also true in our lives of faith.  The season of lent is a good time to get back to the basics. Traditionally these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. One of the basics that often goes unconsidered is discerning our charisms.

One of the basics of discerning charisms is charism discernment experiments.  If you haven’t heard of this before, I suggest referring to a previous post as an introduction to the concept.  If it has been a while since you have done an experiment, perhaps in the remainder of Lent praying about which charism to experiment with would prepare you to perform an experiment during the Easter season.

Fountain of Living Water — St. Joan of Arc Parish, Indianapolis, IN.

Remember just because you have identified one or two charisms doesn’t mean that you are done.  God is very generous and may give you additional charisms to better equip you to accomplish the purposes that He has for you.  Charism experiments are not guaranteed to give conclusive answers every time.  Sometimes they reinforce our suspicions that we have a particular charism.  Sometimes they contradict our suspicions.  They can also give us mixed signals or not really tell us much of anything.

We might ask, so why bother?  The answer is because knowing what our charisms are, and what they aren’t, can have a tremendous impact on our effectiveness in building the Kingdom of God.  This knowledge helps us to answer the question, “What is God calling me to do?”  Our charisms show us what ministries that we are best equipped to participate in and where we will be most effective.

It is important not to jump to conclusions too quickly, experimenting is an ongoing activity that is not something that is over and done in a six-week period.  We should start with a defined concrete plan, but that is just a start.  The prayerful, patient navigation of the plan can be a wonderful part of the process of getting to know the Lord on a more intimate level.  There are other influences (the world, the flesh and the devil) that are working against our proper discernment. 

If you have gotten bogged down in the process before, I encourage you to keep trying and if you haven’t started, it’s never too late.  Learning to be a disciple of Christ is a wonderfully challenging adventure.  Taking a step toward God will always benefit us in the long run.

If you are not sure where to start, you might read a book about the Charisms of the Holy Spirit.  One example that I found helpful is Fruitful Discipleship: Living the Mission of Jesus in the Church and the World by Sherry A. Weddell.  You might also check out a Life in the Spirit seminar or a Called and Gifted workshop at a local parish (after the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted of course).  You could also spend some time looking through the blog posts on my site.   If you look at the “What are the Charisms?” drop down lists, I have posts on most of the charisms that appear on common lists.

In these uncertain times, many are taking life a little less for granted.  With constant reminders of our vulnerability to unseen threats to our health and even our lives, people are perhaps a little more open to consideration of the last things death, judgement, heaven and hell.  As Christians, we are called to reach out with the saving message of Jesus, particularly using the gifts and charisms with which we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit.

“8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

Galatians 6:8-10 (NRSVCE)

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

Can She Say that to Her?

Brothers and Sisters,

Here are the additional thoughts on the charism of Leadership that I wrote a few years ago.  There is something else about some of the leaders that I have mentioned in this series.  There is a moral “weightiness” about them that allows them to say things that normal people could not get away with.  Let me illustrate with an example.

“On this January 22 (2016), it is good to remember an event that took place 22 years ago. In 1994 at the National Prayer Breakfast, the keynote speaker was Mother Teresa. Before President and First Lady Clinton, Mother Teresa spoke about the cultural corruption that arises out of crimes against the unborn.

‘I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts… Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.’

Abortion, she said, is a rejection of the teachings of Christ himself who taught that those who receive a little child, receive him. Mother Teresa concluded that every abortion, as a refusal to receive a little child, is a refusal to receive Jesus. After these words, she paused, receiving a standing ovation.

Mr. and Mrs. Clinton did not stand and did not applaud.”

Given what we are used to seeing on TV in the run-up to the election [2016], one might expect that Mrs. Clinton would have denounced Mother Teresa for ignoring the rights of the women to choose or some other response to defend the practice of abortion.  But let’s get the rest of the story.

Mother Teresa Speaking From Baltimore Basilica steps 1996

“Mother Teresa went on courageously.

‘I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption—by care of the mother and adoption for her baby… Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy.’

The address concluded, Mrs. Clinton noted the pointed nature of the nun’s words. ‘Mother Teresa was unerringly direct,’ the First Lady recounted. ‘She disagreed with my views on a woman’s right to choose and told me so.’ Tell her so she did; but though she was direct in her disagreement, she also offered something that Mrs. Clinton could applaud. Although Hillary Clinton was, and remains, a supporter of legalized abortion, she agreed with Mother Teresa that adoption was a preferable alternative. Speaking to her afterwards, Mother Teresa told Mrs. Clinton of her desire to continue her mission to find homes and families for orphaned, abandoned, and unwanted children by founding an adoption center in Washington, DC. She invited the First Lady to assist her in this endeavor, and brought Mrs. Clinton to India with her to witness her work firsthand.

Mother Teresa’s motions were not wasted. When Hillary Clinton returned to Washington, she took up Mother Teresa’s request with a will. Keeping in contact with the saint who called her regularly to receive updates on her ‘center for babies,’ Hillary Clinton did the necessary legwork and succeeded in opening The Mother Teresa Home for Infant Children in 1995 in an affluent section of Washington, DC. Mother Teresa joined her for the opening, and two years later passed into the arms of her Lord. But she left a bright mark on the career of Hillary Clinton, who saw something remarkable in the tiny nun, and chose to do her bidding to help save lives. Mother Teresa inspired Mrs. Clinton to do a truly good work in spite of her dedicated promotion of Planned Parenthood’s agenda for ‘safe and legal’ abortions.

The center was quietly and unfortunately closed in 2002.”1 

My point in quoting this story is not to make a statement about Mrs. Clinton’s character or motives, but to point out the actions of Mother Teresa.  There was something about Mother Theresa that compelled a staunch abortion advocate to engage in something that seems more along the pro-life lines of thinking.  When Mother Theresa’s influence was no longer around the center quietly went away. 

Thanks to the weight of Mother Teresa’s moral character she was able to convince her opponent (as far as abortion was concerned) to help her in providing an alternative.  I think the holiness and goodness of Mother Teresa worked in conjunction with her charism of leadership to advance God’s agenda.

One of the steps in the process of canonization before a candidate is declared Venerable is to make a determination of whether the person lived a life of heroic virtue.  I never knew exactly what that meant until recently.  Here are the marks of heroic virtue:

“This traditional teaching on the distinctive marks of heroic virtue is summed up by Benedict XIV when he says: ‘Four things are required for proven or manifest heroic virtue: (1) the matter or object should be difficult, above the common strength of man; (2) the acts should be accomplished promptly, easily; (3) they should be performed with holy joy; (4) they should be accomplished quite frequently, when the occasion to do so presents itself.’”2

I suppose heroic virtue will help with whatever charism you exercise but it is certainly valuable in conjunction with the charism of leadership.  The point that I am trying to make is better stated by Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J. in his book Winning Souls for Christ.  He states:

“We have to make Christian teaching attractive by presenting it in action, by furnishing an example of Christian life that will be not only attractive, but, if possible, even heroic.  We have to make it admirable.

Words may be effective, but actions have a hundred times their virtue in the power of persuasion.  Among those actions, the most persuasive of all are those that are marked with the stamp or heroism.”

Virtue persuades because it counteracts the demons of suspicion and fear that are the plague of many well- meaning leaders.  Building virtue will help us in all areas of our Christian lives.  Our prayer will be better, the gravity of our sins will decrease, our ability to love will increase, and if we are trying to lead more people will follow.

Finally, when there is a vacuum of leadership in a family, church, business, or government organization, things will not happen as we hope they will, people will not honor their commitments, these entities will split, shrink, and no longer fulfill their missions. 

Jesus said in Matthew 15:14, “if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  The charism of Leadership is what is needed to address the problems of our troubled world.  The charism of Leadership helps people to lead in a God-honoring way.  The charism of Leadership can show lost souls the way to the Kingdom of God.  Let’s pray for this precious gift of the Holy Spirit and the faith to exercise it.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. http://www.crisismagazine.com/2016/marching-for-life-mother-teresa-and-mrs-clinton
  2.  http://www.catholictradition.org/Christ/heroic-virtues1.htm

Helping the Individual vs. Helping the Vision

Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to follow up one of my recent posts (<click the link to see it) on the charism of helps.  At the time of the writing of that post, a Spiritual Gifts group that I was part of discussed the content of the post.  Because there was some other points of view expressed that I found compelling, I thought I would give you a little bonus and share them here.

It was brought up that my comparison of the charism of Helps to spiritual direction did not really seem to fit with the understanding that they had of helps.  The thought was that spiritual direction fit more properly with other charisms of wisdom, encouragement, and mercy rather than helps.  Spiritual direction being a special activity which could not really be confined to one particular charism.  I don’t necessarily disagree, it really depends on how helps is defined.

One of the attendees (our helper) who scored highly for the charism of helps offered her perspective which I would like to try to summarize.  Our helper gave a couple of examples of how the charism had worked for her. 

One example was that our helper became aware of someone who had been given responsibility for a large activity. Knowing this person’s strengths and weaknesses our helper perceived that the person would have a hard time successfully coordinating the activity without help.  This lead her to volunteer to assist in the coordination of the activity, not because she enjoyed the type of work required but because she had a strong desire to help the person. 

Repro. of painting entitled Apprentice by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

Another example our helper gave was that she was made aware of a need of someone (the helpee) that she did not know.  Our helper was told of the need by someone else (the informer) that did not really feel that he/she could meet the need personally.  As we heard the story we could see some potential charisms working in the informer that lead him/her to approach our helper.  Anyway, the helper agreed to meet with the helpee to try to see if there was anything that she could do to meet the need.  The helper was able to assess the need and determined that she could partially meet the need. However, she would need assistance with some of the other requirements, but she was willing to do what she could.  It turned out that the parts that our helper could not do personally were taken care of by other people and she was able to help the helpee triple productivity compared to the previous year. 

In both situations our helper did not feel called or particularly gifted in the types of assistance that she provided, but she did feel tremendous satisfaction in being able to help the people to succeed.  Looking back at her life, through the lens of the charism of helps, she was able to make sense of many situations in her career that had formerly not made much sense to her.

I did want to share the perspective of our helper, because it really gave me some insight into the charism that I had not understood.  I had not really gotten the distinction between helps and service.  Helps derives satisfaction from helping the individual and not from enjoying the work itself, while the charism of service provides much more satisfaction from actually doing the work.  It was also pointed out in the meeting that it is difficult to describe a charism that you don’t have personal experience with.

Raphael’s painting of Ezekiel’s Vision from chapter 1 of the Book of Ezekiel

After the meeting the following definition of helps seemed to make more sense to me than it did before.

“The charism of helps inspires people to invest their talents and gifts in the lives of others. People with this charism are often attracted to leaders and to people with a specific vision that they can support. However, people with the gift of helps aren’t joining forces for the sake of the vision. People with this gift often act as a catalyst, staying in the background as a mover and a shaker but shunning actual leadership. People with the spiritual gift of helps often come up with ideas, motivate others, and get the team “unstuck.” They often exude a quiet sense of authority and confidence. For this reason, they can be mistaken for a leader much like people with the gift of service. But they are very uncomfortable in the leadership position. Their charism doesn’t equip them to lead others. The focus of this gift is on helping the individual, not the organizational flow of the project. They come alongside others to help them meet their goals.”1

The information that I have shared highlights the benefit of how gathering with others to discuss the charisms allows us to bring clarity and a fuller understanding of them.  It also helps us to have a greater appreciation of how the gifts of the Spirit in different members of the Body of Christ work together to accomplish God’s purposes.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. The Charismatic Grace of Helps https://www.fromtheabbey.com/keys-courtyard-christian-mission/spiritual-gifts-the-kingly-charisms/

Basketball and Following Jesus

Brothers and Sisters,

A message I heard on Friday by Fr. Steve Pullis regarding discipleship and personal vocation is worth sharing.  It was at a Worship/Adoration event.  The scripture for the message was from the fourth chapter of Matthew.

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.(RSVCE)

The points from the message that stuck with me were:

  1. It’s hard to follow.
  2. Jesus calls us in terms that we understand.
  3. Following Jesus can be a little scary.
  4. We have to take a risk to follow.
  5. Follow immediately.
Traffic entering Baja California” in Mexico at San Ysidro, California, USA. Taken on March 19, 2006, by Flickr user serapio.

Let me unpack these a bit.  First, following is hard.  When we follow, we are not in control.  The illustration Fr. Steve used was trying to follow some friends to a restaurant.  He asked them for the address, so he could plug it into the GPS, but they said, “Just follow us.”  First, he got stuck behind a slow-moving car.  Then he got distracted and drove by the people he was following.  Eventually after driving for a while he realized he did not know where he was or where he was going. — Following is uncomfortable.  Most of us like to be in control.  We like to know where we are going, what stops we will make, and when we will get there. Following entails none of those.

Second, Jesus speaks to us in terms that we understand.  In the scripture passage he talks fishing with the fishermen.  Fr. Steve loves basketball.  The Lord brought a memory back to him from his high school years in his prayer one day.  He was playing in a recreational league on a team that had just been soundly beaten by another team.  One of the best players from the other team approached him and said, “You need to shoot more.”  He didn’t know the guy, but he remembered the incident.  Jesus communicated with him in a way that he understood and was passionate about.

SAN DIEGO (Nov. 10, 2011) Michigan State University basketball player Alex Gauna shoots during a practice in the basketball arena on the flight deck aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Third, Jesus is not easy to follow.  This is the God-man we are talking about.  The universe was created through him.  We need to be in awe of the one who is calling us.  He has the gavel when it comes to our destiny.  He asks us to follow him all the way to the cross—at the same time, he tells us not to be afraid.  Following him is the way to know an incomparable love that cannot be accessed in any other way.

Fourth, back to the earlier analogy, “You need to shoot more.” Basketball games are not won unless the players are willing to take a risk.  When you shoot, you risk missing the basket and turning the ball over to the other team. Father Steve understood that to mean that the Lord was telling him that he needed to take risks.  The best players are bold, confident, and courageous. When we follow Jesus, we need to shoot.

Snooze-button.

And finally, the fishermen followed him immediately.  They went after Him at that moment.  They did not wait until they passed Go or collected $200 (an analogy from the game of Monopoly). Fr. Steve mentioned the snooze-button on an alarm clock as an illustration.  How, much better would our mornings be if we did not hit the snooze-button—if we got up and said a prayer requesting God’s blessing on our day rather than sleeping for those additional minutes and not having time to do it.

You can find the full message at http://awakenministry.org/uploads/3/4/4/9/34498726/fr-steve-pullis.mp3

I invite your thoughts and comments.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

With Leadership comes …

Brothers and Sisters,

Following a previous post, here are some more thoughts on the charism of leadership.

I have a coworker that was asked to take a position of responsibility in his church. After praying about it he felt like the Lord was calling him to do it, so he accepted.  He tried to exercise the leadership role relying on biblical principles.  However, inevitably there were conflicts that came up.  Factions formed and he ended up having to make a difficult decision involving another leader in the church.  He tried to make a decision that would be the best for the church and the people involved, but some people were still upset.  Now he is struggling, blaming himself for not handling it properly, ready to give up his position of leadership and considering leaving the church all together and finding another place to worship where he is not known.  He is falling back to the fact that he is not naturally inclined to positions of leadership and would really rather not have to deal with all of the messiness that leadership can entail.

As this example shows there are some things that can derail our exercise of the charism of leadership.  With any leadership position there will be times when you have to make decisions.  The decisions may go against the wishes of some people that you are trying to lead or trying to serve.  Part of leadership is making tough calls and owning responsibility for mistakes.  Owning responsibility for decisions is not making excuses or trying to find someone else to blame.  It means that we may need to apologize.  It does not mean that we automatically resign from the position of leadership when things get difficult.

The Meeting of Leo I and Attila, Marble, height: 750 cm
Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.”1

– Saint Leo the Great    

“If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.”2

– Saint Patrick    

Let’s revisit the idea that if God calls us to do something, he will provide the means for us to accomplish it.  In the case of leadership, this does obviously not mean that our leadership will be free of conflict and that we will not be stretched beyond our comfort zone.  Effective use of the Charism of Leadership requires asking God to give the virtues and guidance that are needed to meet the challenges that will inevitably be faced.  Humility, kindness, generosity, perseverance, and teach-ability are some virtues that come to mind.  When obstacles present themselves in the context of the Charism of Leadership, the best course of action is to ask God to remove them or point out a way around them.

“It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.”3

-Saint John Chrysostom     

A curious practice of Mother Theresa was to put Miraculous Medals on the location of property that she believed God wanted her to have for her charitable work.   One example comes from the book about Mother Theresa:

“I really admired Mother Teresa’s unshakeable faith, but I also loved her feisty attitude.  One time in 1971, Mother Teresa went to see a property that she hoped could house her novitiate in Dublin, Ireland.  The real estate agent told her that it was for sale for £9000. Mother Teresa told the realtor that she could pay only £6000, thanked her for her time and went on her way.

As she was leaving the property, Mother Teresa tossed a Miraculous Medal into the garden.  Shortly afterward, Mother Teresa was given a donation of £5995.  The same day she received the donation, the real estate agent called to tell Mother Teresa that the owner of the property as willing to sell if for £6,000 in order to have a ‘house full of love.’”4

I draw from examples like this that Mother’s expectant faith was one of the things that she used to remove obstacles that were impeding the work she was called to do.  Likewise the person with the Charism of Leadership relies on God to remove roadblocks and difficulties that are standing in the way of bringing about God’s will.  Perhaps the reason that the idea of leadership is so daunting for most of us is that we are only considering our own resources.  If we are able to rely on God to remove the obstacles then the job is much less difficult.  Of course this won’t work if the call to leadership is coming from our own desires and not God’s.

“Anyone who wants to be pope doesn’t care much for themselves, God doesn’t bless them. I didn’t want to be pope.”5

Pope Francis   

St. Francis (Cranberry Prairie, Ohio) – stained glass, St. Francis of Assissi

But if we are called and we accept the call, St. Francis tells us:

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. “6

– Francis of Assisi             

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/724035
  2. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick
  3. http://saintsquotes.net/Selection%20-%20Prayer.html
  4. Mother Theresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
  5. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/popefranci571262.html
  6. https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/francis-of-assisi-quotes

The “Git R Done” Charism

Featured image: Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302

First a few definitions of the charism of Administration:

“to steer the body toward the accomplishment of God-given goals and directives by planning, organizing, and supervising others”1

“empowers a Christian to be an effective channel of God’s wisdom through planning and delegation, and by coordinating the resources and efforts of a group to accomplish a Kingdom purpose.”2

“It is the ability to organize, plan, implement, and keep track of various secretarial duties and records.  This would help those who are involved in the organizational structure of the church.”3

Scripture:

1 Cor. 12: 28 “Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.(NABRE)

Based on the definitions from the sources that I listed above, it looks like, at least in the current context in Christian churches, there seems to be a similar definition this charism.  It is possible that this charism could be confused or mixed with the charism of leadership.  There are, of course, people that have the charism of leadership who might not necessarily have the charism of administration and vice versa.

When I think of someone with the charism of administration (the administrator), the phrase “Git r done” comes to mind.  This administrator can take an absolute mess and, given some time, have things moving forward and the goal within reach.  They actually enjoy the process of putting things in order, finding people to do the tasks required, and eliminating the roadblocks to accomplishing the objective. If you have this charism people will begin to realize that if you are involved in the project, it will likely get done, probably more quickly than expected, and it will not have loose ends waiting to be discovered.

Famous for the phrase “Git r Done”

Administrators might approach big tasks as a puzzle to be put together.  They will likely have a strong reliance on God to show them how the pieces fit together.  Not that they don’t encounter difficulties, on the contrary, they might even be energized when they come up.  They trust God to show them the way past the difficulty and trust that gradually the way to the goal will become clear.

It is very important, if not critical, that the goal is something that they desire.  It must line up with their core values.  It must relate to the call that God has given them.  They feel, when they pour themselves into accomplishing this goal, that their purpose in life is coming to fruition.  Achieving the goal brings a great sense of satisfaction.

The goal is not seen as an individual achievement for which they expect recognition.  Rather, it is a cooperation with the Lord to bring about the desire of His heart.  Any resulting glory is for the Lord. The resources, the skills, the desire, the perseverance all have God as their source and ultimate end.  The administrator is a tool in the hand of the Almighty, fashioning a thing of beauty and eternal significance.

The magnitude to the project or goal does not need to be great, it does not necessarily need to be something the administrator has experience with.  The administrator brings the “Git R Done” to the table and by the grace that God supplies it happens.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. https://mintools.com/blog/gift-of-administration.htm
  2. Fruitful Discipleship by Sherry A. Weddell. P 69.
  3. https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-is-the-spiritual-gift-of-administration-how-do-you-know-if-you-have-it/

Blessed Michael Sopocko and the Charism of Helps.

Brothers and Sisters,

For those not familiar with the charism of helps or assistance it is mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:28. A possible definition is: it empowers a Christian to be a channel of God’s goodness by using his or her skills, talents, and charisms to enable other individuals to serve God and people more fruitfully.1

In a previous post I talked about the spiritual direction or counseling side of the charism of helps.  In this post I would like to talk about the service side of helps, or the tasks that the person with helps performs to help a particular person to get past a difficult situation that is keeping them from fulfilling the purpose that God has for them.

All of us who are parents, I think, are given some measure of this charism.  Throughout the lives of our children we find ourselves in the role of advice giver and service provider to help our children succeed.  The role is there even if the charism is not necessarily present.  Parents gain additional grace in that often their efforts in this area go underappreciated or even worse taken for granted.

I would like to jump back to Fr. Michael Sopocko who I mentioned in the first post in this series.  I found out that he was actually beatified in 2008.  He along with St. Claude Colombiere are excellent examples of both sides of the helps charism.  They both reassured the sisters (St. Faustina and St. Margret Mary, respectively) that they were directing that indeed they were hearing from the Lord.  Not only that, since the sisters were both in cloistered religious communities (meaning that they could not interact with the outside world), the two priests actually took on the task of spreading the devotion that Jesus had asked the sisters to perform.  The priests did not get the name recognition as the sisters did.  St. Faustina and St. Margret Mary are much better known than the St. Claude and Blessed Michael, without which neither of the visionaries would have been known of at all.

So that is the lot of the person with helps, the person who hears from God is often simple and really not capable of fulfilling what they are called to without help.  Likewise, if St. Claude or Blessed Michael had claimed to have heard the messages from Jesus themselves, they likely would have been accused of making up the stories to further their own renown.  But as it was the Lord worked out the arrangement so that his will would be accomplished, through the obedience of the sisters and the faith of the priests.

I would like to include an excerpt from an article on the subject to help us gain an appreciation of the assignment of Blessed Michael.

“One day, when Fr. Sopocko was hearing confessions at the convent, a sister entered the confessional by the name of Sr. Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Father Sopocko had heard her confessions before, and he had admired her honesty and her love for Jesus. But this time he was completely stunned by what she had to say. She told him:

In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on the Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me, ‘Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. … I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image. … By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls’ (Diary, 47-48, 327, and 742).

At this point in the story, it helps to imagine oneself in the place of Fr. Sopocko. Sister Faustina was in his confessional pouring out this tale about an apparition of the Lord Jesus, and Jesus was supposedly asking for a new image of Himself to be painted and venerated throughout the world. Father Sopocko asked her the obvious question: Could she paint? No, she said, she could not paint — and even if she could paint, how could she possibly disseminate the image “throughout the world,” as Jesus supposedly had commanded? After all, she was a religious sister, confined mostly to the convent. The whole thing sounded terribly improbable. As a result, Fr. Sopocko was not inclined to believe her at first. He wondered whether she might be imagining things, or whether she had simply misinterpreted the Lord’s message to her.

Then the situation became worse.

The religious sister later went on to tell him that one of her previous confessors would not believe her, but that Jesus had told her not to worry, because He was going to send her a confessor who would help her to fulfill God’s will in these matters. In fact, Jesus had given her a vision of this priest, and the priest in that vision had looked just like him — Fr. Sopocko — and that was why she was confiding all these things to him now. Moreover, Jesus not only wanted a new image of Himself to be painted and spread throughout the world, He also wanted a new feast day in the liturgical calendar: a Feast of The Divine Mercy, to be celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter by the whole Church.”

The rest of the article can be found at http://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/sopocko/story.php?NID=3363

Certainly, the assignments of all persons with the charism of helps are not that dramatic, but I think this is certainly a good example of the possibilities that are out there.

To wrap up, the charism of helps involves encouraging a particular individual to embrace the call that God has given them, helping them to understand what that call is, and also to provide physical assistance in helping the person to accomplish that goal, even when it means experiencing personal hardship to do so.  The need for this assistance is not at all uncommon in the course of our lives, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the gift of helps to better address the need.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. Sherry A. Weddell, Fruitful Discipleship: Living the Mission of Jesus in the Church and in the World. Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. Huntington, Indiana. 2017. P. 56.