Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Page 94

There's your problem

I recently finished reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. It's a how-to book on Newly Evangelizing yourself; then your parish; and then the world. I mark up books like this and later go back to re-read the marked-up bits.

I was Confirmed in 1968 or so. I was also Baltimore Catechized, and understood that Bishop Unterkoefler was going to lay hands on me and I would receive Gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as...well, I forget. I was 11. Anyway, when you're Confirmed, you get 'em: charisms. So I got Confirmed but never did feel any different, like I had gotten some ka-riz-um. (Chaucer! Rabelais! Balzac!)

Living in South Carolina can be bracing for Catholics. Partly because one might not have at any given instant the best answer to a polemical question; but also because dialogue seems to give way so quickly to argument and uncharity. Is uncharity a word? It is.

One afternoon in 1998 I was at home around lunchtime to let the bug-killer spray the house. Nice young man, mid 20s or so, comes in with his gear, starts spraying. Notices the Jesus 'n' Mary statues; the Crucifix; the palms. He says, I see you have statues of Jesus and Mary...are y'all Catholic? "Yes, we are," and I'm gettin' stressed for the usual grind. Well, can I ask you some questions about that? "Sure, go ahead." And it's mostly the regular questions- but some were deeper, more informed, more inquiring, more than just boilerplate. I was really having to think and respond to particulars, and consequently feeling more tense than usual.

Then all of a sudden I was perfectly calm and relaxed. I seemed to have no involvement with the engaging responses that came out of my mouth. I was in an evangelical flow state, being lifted up and out, thinking and conversing in this weird, effortless, liberating, charitable, open way. And I thought, "Wow...could this be a Confirmation Gift of the Holy Spirit? A charism? Who'd'a thunk it after all these years?" I continued to accompany the bugman as he walked around the inside and outside of the house for the next 30-odd minutes, answering questions, asking a few, having a pointed yet pleasant conversation. Then we sat down while he wrote up his bill, which took the rest of the hour, as we were still talking. Only once did things get a bit tense, I think it was over good works in this bit by St. Paul:  "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life...glory and honor and peace for every one who worketh good." But neither of us felt compelled to beat the other up over it, to win. Before he left, I learned that Mr. Bug Killer was only part-time, and was studying at Bob Jones for his divinity degree. He said he enjoyed our Christian dialogue; and while I hadn't persuaded him of anything it was interesting nonetheless. I agreed, and he left, both of us grinning like Cheshire Cats.

Page 94 of Sherry's book is in a section titled "Discerning Charisms." Like me, everyone has them, but we don't all get identical doses. And also like me, people often don't know what their charisms are. Sherry writes:

"...charisms almost always manifest after the point in our life when our faith becomes personal..."

Which was true in my case. But more specifically, she adds:

"They may also manifest for the first time when we meet a person or situation for which that particular gift is needed."

Which perfectly describes my'd she know that?

I marked up the rest of page 94 with additional underlining, brackets, and comments such as: Yes; Yes; Absolutely. A whole page of remarkable observations about my own experience of charisms. I could say more, but it's better if you read page 94 (and the rest of the book) yourself.

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