Dear Father Angelo,
I am writing you to ask for some explanations on a very important topic: charisms and charismatic people.
I am a young man, and my faith is strong. Until a few months ago, I was a seminarian on the path for the priesthood, but now this path has been momentarily interrupted. I trust in the Lord and in the discernment of my pastor to be able one day, when God will want, to resume this path.
During these years I met some people who very timidly call themselves charismatic. I met these people through a priest who used to guide me spiritually.
I met one of them for the first time over the phone. Without me telling her anything, she told me facts that only I knew. She also knew immediately my desire of becoming a priest, even if I did not say a word about it. After that phone call, my relationship with this person strengthened and I had the opportunity to meet her personally. Whenever I talk with her, I receive messages, or small “prophecies”, which all come true some time after.
There have been times in which she talked to me about specific situations that later came true. I specify that this person is a woman, attends a group of the Renewal in the Spirit (Italian charismatic movement), and regularly attends the Mass. This person also has the gift of reading into hearts. She has a spiritual director, a priest to whom she confesses regularly.
I ask myself the following question: what does the Church say about these charismatic people and, more in general, charisms? Should we believe what these people say?
I specify that my faith is founded in Christ, dead and risen. I do not want you to think that I believe only in charismatic people.
What is the attitude that a Christian must have regarding this?
I personally believe that the Lord may use these people to get close to others. If they make good use of the gifts given them by the Holy Spirit, they can work as instruments in God’s hands.
I thank you in advance for the answer you will give me.
I send my best regards
Response from the priest
1. In the history of the Church there have always been people who, in addition to the holiness of life, have enjoyed various charisms, including that of the discernment of spirits (reading into hearts).
Among many others, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who was a priest, and Saint Catherine of Siena.
Therefore, it cannot be denied that God accompanies the Church also with this gift.
2. Of course, it is necessary to discern charisms, and this discernment belongs to the authority of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium, affirms that: “The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth (John, 16:13) and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits” (LG 4 ).
3. In the decree on the apostolate of the laity, the same Council also reminds the faithfuls of the duty to support the animation that comes from the Holy Spirit: “From the acceptance of these charisms, including those which are more elementary, there arise for each believer the right and duty to use them in the Church and in the world for the good of men and the building up of the Church, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit who “breathes where He wills” (John 3:8). This should be done by the laity in communion with their brothers in Christ, especially with their pastors” (Apostolicam actuositatem 3).
4. However, it is necessary to discern the charisms.
This task belongs to the bishops. “Judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good” (Lumen gentium 12).
5. According to the Presbyterorum ordinis (decree of the same Council on the Ministry and Life of Priests): “While trying the spirits to see if they be of God, priests [too] should uncover with a sense of faith, acknowledge with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of the laity”(PO 9).
6. Coming to your case: if the ecclesiastical authority did not say anything about the charisms of the person you are talking about, and in particular if your confessor, or the priest who guides you spiritually, has nothing against it, indeed, they are in favour. I would therefore say that you can meet this person, always communicating with your confessor, or with the priest who guides you, so that the right discernment is always assured.
I wish you all the best for your future, I entrust you to God, and I bless you.