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THE HOLY SPIRITíS GIFTS
TO THE CHURCH

 

ďSo that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.Ē

(Catechism of the Catholic Church #768)

 

First, the hierarchic gifts mentioned above refer to the divine graces that accompany the clergyís work of (1) teaching us the supernatural truths and commandments revealed by the Lord for our salvation and (2) administering to us the Sacraments established by the Lord to distribute the various graces that we need.  These services of the clergy are the essential channels of spiritual nourishment and healing for the healthy maintenance and growth of the Church.  Without the active and effective work of the clergy, we are likely to remain confused in spiritual darkness as we cannot sufficiently and correctly learn the Lordís teachings regarding our salvation and will also suffer from spiritual starvation and illness as we cannot adequately receive the divine graces through the Sacraments that can heal our spiritual wounds, infuse and restore the supernatural life into our souls, and thus sanctify us and make us true children of God and faithful citizens of His Kingdom.

Second, the charismatic gifts refer to the special graces that the Lord gives to his chosen workers, whether they be clergy, religious, or laity, for the purpose of helping the members of the Church as a whole become more faithful to the truths and commandments that the Lord already entrusted to the Church, avoid falling into errors, moral degradation, and despair, and, if they have already fallen into them, free themselves from them.  Through His chosen workers, the Lord may give messages, miraculous signs, and/or prophecies.  He may also give them the mission of devoting their lives to prayers and sufferings in reparation for the sins in the world or to the works of education, medical care, assisting the poor, publishing, etc. to spread Godís merciful love and saving truths.  In the broad sense, any works of the Christians, even including the most trivial-looking and routine matters in everyday life, can qualify as works of supernatural and eternal value in building up the Church if done for the love of God and neighbors and in conformity with His teachings.  The charismatic gifts are intended less for the benefit of particular individuals than for the benefit of the Church as a whole (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #799-801), as God uses them as His instruments for restoring apostolic vitality and charity among all the members of the Church especially in times of widespread spiritual laxity and moral decay.

Throughout Church history, God has sent many Saints to His Church to lead her members on the right track through their teachings and good examples.  Most significantly, God has been sending the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Savior and of the Church, repeatedly and at many different locations in the world for the purpose of prodding His people to adhere more faithfully to His teachings and commandments and, thus, defeating the devil who is always eager to tempt more humans to deviate from serving and obeying God and to bring about their own eternal ruin (cf. Genesis 3:15).  There have been many historical cases of heresies eliminated or weakened, foreign invasions repelled, plagues and other natural disasters averted, and moral corruptions reversed through the intercession and succor of the Blessed Mother and other Saints.  A most notable example is the conversion to the Catholic Faith of more than 8 million people in Mexico in the 16th Century when the Blessed Mother appeared to a humble native in Guadalupe, St. Juan Diego, and, through him, gave to the Church her messages and miraculous image, which the local bishop and people promptly and gratefully accepted as true signs from God and acted upon them.  Of course, there had been many strenuous efforts by the Spanish missionary priests to convert the Aztec Indians and break their ignominious tradition of idolatry and human sacrifices, but the result had been so sluggish.  It was only when the Blessed Mother intervened with her apparitions, messages, and a miraculous image of herself that the real progress began.  The miracle in Guadalupe did not bring about any changes to the existing contents of the Christian Faith, but triggered the fire of the Catholic Faith to flame up and spread vigorously as in the early days of the Church, when the Apostles were preaching courageously and converting countless people after Pentecost.

The above-quoted catechism states that the Holy Spirit directs the Church by means of the hierarchic and charismatic gifts.  The emphasis is on both gifts, which should be taken by the residents of our current materialistic world as a warning not to despise either of the two kinds of gifts.  On the one hand, we need to humbly and correctly recognize that the official teachings of the Catholic Church are of divine origin and authority.  The Church herself was established by Our Divine Lord and is constantly sustained and guided by the Holy Spirit.  Her teachings, commandments, and liturgical celebrations are divine in their origin, contents, purpose, and authority, which includes the charism of infallibility applicable to those occasions when the Pope or the Ecumenical Council of Bishops in union with the Pope solemnly defines the doctrines on faith and morals.  If the Church had not been given this charism by the Lord, her teachings would have been nothing more than human wisdom and precepts with the best human intention but without any divine guarantee of their authenticity.  During His life on earth, Jesus was recognized only as a human being by many of His contemporaries who heard His teachings and saw His miracles but kept their minds closed to the light of divine grace and, thus, to the supernatural truths.  They failed to see that Jesus was not only fully human like us, but, more importantly, fully divine  co-substantive with and in union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  Likewise, one must not judge His Church superficially based on her external looks and activities, either.  The essential reality of the Catholic Church that flows from the fact of God the Sonís Incarnation is that she is not only a community of believers but is the living, supernatural Mystical Body of Christ that teaches Christís truths and distributes His graces with His own power and authority bearing real fruits of sanctifying human beings and saving them.  For this reason, the Pope, Bishops, and priests who faithfully teach the truths and commandments from the Lord and administer the Sacraments rightfully deserve our profound respect, obedience, love, and support. 

At the same time, we should not despise the reported supernatural events like messages and miraculous signs even without a proper discernment by the standards of the authentic Catholic teachings, scientific tests, and reliable testimonies.  It would be an unfortunate mistake for anyone to think that the hierarchic gifts alone are always sufficient for effectively carrying out our mission as members of the Church.  How can we say that we do not need any special help from God and are sufficiently capable of solving our current problems in the usual way?  Whether we need the special divine help or not is a question not to be answered by us.  Of course, the facts of the charismatic gifts are not new articles of faith and thus do not obligate us to accept them, but still are solemn and precious words and signs coming from God for the specific purpose of helping us overcome our current crises.  Because they concern the particular needs, dangers, and opportunities of the Church and the world in our time, it is urgent that we seriously heed what God is telling us and make sincere efforts to carry out His Will.  We should not be like those proud people who were laughing at Noah, who was busily building an ark in fair weather, and, then, were completely swept away by a terrible flood.  We can thank God for all His blessings, spiritual and physical, and use them for serving Him and helping our neighbors as well as filling our own needs, but we must never forget the fact that we are placed in this world not for satisfying our own goals and desires but for the realization of Godís truth, justice, and charity on earth and the salvation of more people into Godís Eternal Kingdom.  May the Church doctrine that we were created for the glory of God and we can be eternally happy only by faithfully serving God be engraved in our minds and hearts and become the foremost guiding principle for all our thoughts, words, and activities. 

 

Benedict Sang M. Lee
Maryís Touch
By Mail
Gresham, Oregon, USA
April 24, 2007


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