Mark Shea has a post on the differences between charisms and sanctifying grace: Charisms don’t make you a saint. I recommend it to anyone who has argued that if someone has benefitted from what is offered by a person, movement or order (preaching, writing, inspirational tales, experiences), then the person, movement, or order must be from God. “…[E]very sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit,” they quote – and then get sideswiped by the Fr Maciels of the world.
Everybody is stunned. They have to work through all the stages of dying to reach the place where they really do admit to themselves that they were not just suckers, but suckers who persecuted whistleblowers on behalf of the guy who suckered them. How could they have gotten played so badly? There is a period of mourning — and then we move on to believing completely in the next guy with a gift of gab or a knack for writing snappy prose/singing catchy Christian tunes/making popular Christian movies. Pretty soon we have that guy on the fast track to canonization, and if somebody says that there’s something sketchy about him… well, just look at his fruits! How can he possibly have something seriously wrong with his credibility?
I don’t want to quote the whole article – go and read it. But I would just like to comment on how helpful I find Mark Shea’s discussion of charismatic gifts – the ones that can go horribly wrong when we exploit them and use them for our own ends – and sanctifying gifts.
The sanctifying graces given us in that sacrament are all ordered toward making us Christlike so that, in preaching to others, we ourselves are not lost. They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. And it is from these gifts that we get the “fruit of the Spirit” that scripture describes: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
Note that there is nothing in this list of fruits about racking up convert scalps, nor gathering crowds of impressive size, nor inspiring people with great talks, nor astounding them with wonderful and even miraculous deeds, nor inspiring them, nor a thrilling/funny/moving/orthodox conversion story, nor in a knack for recitation of Scripture and Catechism. That is because Paul is aware that the real fruit of the Spirit is rooted in the sanctifying gifts and not in the charismatic ones.
I’ve known a few people who had allowed sanctifying grace to transform their lives. They also transformed the lives of those around them, even those who lacked the kinds of flashy charisms that attract the crowds. And I’ve known some with charisms, sometimes powerful charisms, who were charlatans and con artists. Mark Shea points out that Paul’s distinction between charismatic gifts and sanctifying grace follows the distinction that Jesus made:
In the verse immediately following the passage about judging a tree by its fruits… Jesus says:
‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” (Mt 7:21-23)’