By Samantha Kersten
Last fall I sat around a table with a group of people from various parts of the Quad Cities. Some were familiar faces and some were new faces. The word “community” came up and it made me smile. A wise deacon once said that community is what being Catholic is all about. We were there to talk about Called and Gifted, share stories and to break bread; we were part of a new community.
Called and Gifted. It’s a process developed by the Catherine of Sienna Institute to help Christians discern the presence of charisms, or spiritual gifts, in their life. My personal definition: a class that helps you to understand why you are the way you are, why you do the things you do, and why certain people or things bug you. Who wouldn’t want to take this class? Does the title cause some fear?
I once went to hear a priest speak just because one of the topics listed in the bulletin was “5 People You Are Allowed to Hate.” He totally tricked me with the title, but I took some new self-awareness and spiritual growth away from the hour. The self-help aisles overflow with books. Everyone is looking for answers. Your answers for understanding YOU can begin with this class, and the people you will meet and form community with are worth your time.
How does the saying go? God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I don’t feel very qualified. How did I get called to share my story? I guess because God is so much greater than I am, and God knows that I am slowly learning that he is in control.
My story is simple. I met Bernie Vogel at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf about seven years ago. A persuasive man, he always wanted me to sign up for Called and Gifted class, but I didn’t have time. Bernie passed away several years ago, but one Sunday in 2012 I was thinking about him all day. I went to Mass and afterwards was walking by a display that Adult Formation had set up on classes. I was drawn to the Called and Gifted class. I said, “OK Bernie, you got me,” and signed up. I took the class, have helped facilitate one class and now am writing to share my story. Funny, how God works.
Called and Gifted helps you explore your God-given charisms. Not talents, but spiritual gifts. Everyone receives them with baptism and everyone has a gift mix. I had a hard time admitting my charism of wisdom. I prayed and practiced discernment, which you learn in class. I set out to use my charism by signing up to teach religious ed to eighth-graders preparing for confirmation. Ugh! I begged God to let me know if anything I was teaching them was sinking in. Later that week, my teaching assistant, a high school student, told me he had learned so much in my classes. Wow, huge God moment. I said thank you to my assistant, with tears in my eyes. I got in my car, cried and thanked God for answering my plea.
Still, not really accepting my charism of wisdom (remember I said I am slow), one afternoon before helping to facilitate Called and Gifted I was flipping through my Bible and asking God for some affirmation. A verse was on my mind, Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
I read the footnote in my study Bible: “These verses are peculiar to Matthew and are similar to Ben Sirach’s invitation to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sir 51, 26-36).” So I read Sirach 51: 23-26: “Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction; How long will you be deprived of wisdom’s food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? I open my mouth and speak of her: gain, at no cost wisdom for yourselves. Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” I smiled and said, “Thank you, God; I hear you.” I went to class and told my story of affirmation from God.
Christians with the charism of wisdom are interested in the specifics of the big ideas; we are fascinated with not the whole forest, but a single tree. We also have a great appreciation of the Catholic tradition. The really neat thing about Called and Gifted and charisms: No two people use them the same way. God is so good and amazing. Take the class; you will be glad you did.
(For information about beginning a Called and Gifted program in your parish, please contact Nikki Gartner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (563) 370-3360.)