More Details of the Discernment Process of the Catherine of Siena

By Fr Michael Fones OP When I wrote last month, here, about the Catherine of Siena Institute and their process of discernment, Fr Michael Fones of the Institute contacted me with further information about their program. He posted it as a comment on the original, which you can read here. To summarise the first article: I described their process of examination of the past to discern if there might be special gifts that we have that indicate a charism. He wished to add more detail, about a refinement once the process of discernment once possible charims have first been first identified. I am very happy to bring this to the attention of Way of Beauty readers' attention by posting it more prominently here: "I’d like to add to your description of the discernment process, which you described in this way in the 7th paragraph: “The Catherine of Siena process of discerning charisms (and you can have more than one) involves a guided examination of one’s past experience for signs of the workings of a charism.”

While that’s true, it’s only part of the process. We recommend that after going through a workshop (either a live workshop or from a CD made of one taught by Fr. Sweeney and Sherry Weddell), an individual have an interview, as you did with me, and then select a charism for which there’s some evidence in one’s life, actively put one’s self in a situation where that charism may be called forth, and then examine the results. This would include the subjective results you mentioned – a sense of being energized during the activity, a sense of closeness to God or prayerfulness; as well as the objective results – what actually happened, and what kind of feedback from others did you receive.

So, for example, if there’s some evidence I may have a charism of teaching, I can “test” for that charism by trying to teach someone *something* – like chemistry, or how to kick a soccer ball, for example. How did I feel while I was teaching? Did the individual learn? What kind of feedback did I receive?

This is an important distinction – the active “testing” of the Holy Spirit’s working through me or not. Because if I’ve recently gone through a conversion, or just been baptized (when the charisms are given), there may well be nothing to examine in my past! This is because the charisms manifest when several important conditions have been met: 1) my faith becomes personal [and although they are given infallibly at baptism they may well not "activate" until I choose to follow Christ; the charisms are for others, and if my life is only about me... well, I'm basically telling God that He can't use me as His instrument]; 2) when I meet the persons or situations for which I have received the gift(s)"