How often have we heard the words charism or charismatic and wondered about their precise meaning. Well, read on because Pope Francis explains everything in his catechesis at today’s general audience as he focuses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He read from his prepared text and then, at a certain point, put that aside and continued his teaching moment in off-the-cuff remarks.

Today, October 1, the start of the month dedicated to both the rosary and to missions, is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, patron of missons, whom the Pope highlights as he explains charisms.


His general intention: “That Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.”

His mission intention: “That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.”


Pope Francis focused the catechesis of the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square on “the gifts of the Holy Spirit with which the Lord, from the beginning, has filled His Church, making her forever alive.”

Among these, he told the over 35,000 pilgrims, “we find some that are particularly valuable for the edification and the progress of the Christian community: these are charisms.” Noting that in everyday language the word “charisma” is used in relation to a talent or natural ability, the Pope explained that, “from a Christian point of view, a charism is far more than a personal quality, a predisposition or a gift: it is a grace, a gift from God the Father, by the action of the Holy Spirit … so that with the same gratuitous love it may be placed at the service of the entire community, for the good of all.”

“When we use charism or charisma in reference to a talent, and we see a person who is really brilliant and inspiring, we often say: ‘this person is charismatic’. What does it mean? I do not know, but he/she is charismatic!”

The Pope asked: “What exactly is a charism? How can we discern and acknowledge it? And most importantly: is the diversity and richness of charisms in the Church something positive and beautiful, or do we see it as a problem? From the very beginning, the Lord has bestowed upon His Church the gifts of His Spirit, thus making her rich and fruitful. … From a Christian perspective, a charism is much more than a personal quality or a predisposition we may have: a charism is a grace, a gift given by God through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is granted to a person not because he or she is better than others or on account of his or her merits: it is a gift bestowed by God that one needs to place, with the same gratuity and love, at the service of the entire community, for the good of all.”

To better explain what the word “charism” means for Christians, the Pope chose to, speak off-the-cuff and told a personal story: “Today before coming to the square, I received many disabled children and an organization dedicated to their care. These people have the charism of caring for disabled children: this is a charism.”

Before the Wednesday audience, in fact, Francis had gone to the Paul VI Hall where he received participants in the pilgrimage organized by the Secular Institute of the Little Apostles of Charity, founded sixty years ago by Blessed Luigi Monza who worked, as the Pope noted, “with skill and love” in the care of the disabled. Francis mentioned the Institute in his catechesis as an example of the charism of care for the most vulnerable, recalling that the work of Luigi Monza was supported by Pope Paul VI when he was archbishop of Milan, Italy.

Continuing his extemporaneous remarks, the Holy Father added a touch of humor, saying, “we cannot understand by ourselves if we have a charism, and which charism we might have. I’ve heard this many times: ‘I have this skill, I can sing very well’, and yet no one has the courage to say: ‘you’d better stay quiet, because your singing annoys us!’ So we all have to ask ourselves: is there any charism that the Lord has gifted me, in the grace of His Spirit, and that my brothers and sisters in the Christian community have recognized and encouraged?’ And what is my attitude to this gift? Do I live it with generosity, by placing it at the service of all, or do I neglect it and forget about it? Do I take pride in it? Or does it perhaps become a pretext for pride, so that I expect the community to do things my way?”

“The most beautiful experience, however,” said the Holy Father, “is discovering how many different charisms there are, and with how many gifts of the Spirit the Father fills His Church. This must not be regarded as a cause for confusion or unease: they are all gifts that God gives to the Christian community. …But, he warned, “Beware, lest these gifts become a cause for envy, division or jealousy! As the Apostle Paul recalls in his First Letter to the Corinthians, all charisms are important in the eyes of God, and at the same time, no one is indispensable.”

Francis then pointed out that today the Church commemorates St. Therese of Lisieux, who died at the age of 24 and “loved the Church so much that she wanted to be a missionary; she wanted to have every sort of charism. And in prayer she realized that her charism was love. She said, ‘In the heart of the Church, I will be love’, a beautiful phrase. And we all have this charism: the capacity to love. Today let us ask St. Therese of the Child Jesus for this capacity to love the Church, to love her dearly, and to accept all these charisms with this filial love for the Church, for our hierarchical Holy Mother Church.”

In greetings at the end of the audience, the Pope asked the faithful to pray for the success of the upcoming synod of bishops that opens on Sunday with a focus on the family. Around 150 Synod fathers from around the world will be joined by lay people, including 14 married couples, to discuss the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. The Synod will last two weeks, ending with a Mass on Sunday, October 19 that will include the beatification of Servant of God Pope Paul VI.