New Blogger’s Challenge – Help Me Determine Charism

October 20, 2012 — 27 Comments

Two months ago, I committed to building a website for the sole purpose of blogging. On my About page, I said that I would “write about matters that generally attract my attention––religionculture, politics, the military and news items occasionally out of left field.” I also stated that I was a former atheist who converted to Catholicism and that more times than not, I see the world through spiritual lenses––colored a bit by irreverence and satire.

Thinking

Twenty-five posts later, on subjects that fit squarely within my 5 “boxes” (for example, my Catholic conversion, movie-making and society, political wars, my Marine Corps past, and abortion), my overarching motivation, purpose and underlying theme have become manifestly clear.

To Glorify God!

I would suspect that most readers are aware of the Internet’s reach and power. But to dig around in the Google Analytical weeds has been fascinating. For instance, my posts have “visited” 82 countries, 2,100 cities and been viewed by thousands of folks. I can ascertain percentage of first time readers, which posts are popular, average time spent on the site and a wealth of other statistics.

However, here’s the important point. This world-wide coverage is NOT directly proportional to the merits of my posts. It speaks instead to the extraordinary power of the Internet and the willingness of like-minded people to spread the word.

Two influential people come to mind. Kevin Knight (New Advent) and Tito Edwards (Big Pulpit) have been extremely charitable in linking some of my posts on their websites. Why is this key? I’m not famous, I don’t have a visible platform, and I’ve never done anything particularly nefarious online (sex tapes seem to be de rigueur in launching successful careers – see Kim Kardashian – 16 million Twitter followers – Oy Vey).

I’m just a flawed sinner in California trying to contribute to God’s kingdom. Nevertheless, Kevin and Tito’s desire to present different voices and evangelize to the world are the primary reason anybody beyond my family has viewed my site. I wholeheartedly support their sites, click on many of the links and am stunned at the high level of discourse and intelligence presented. If more Catholics knew about their sites and made it their duty to periodically check in, we could change the world.

Which brings me to my challenge.

The USCCB teaches that a charism is the identifying trait of a religious community. “Charisms are gifts of the Holy Spirit given to an individual or group for the good of the whole Church. Every religious order has a special charism which forms their identity and mission. The charism is the motivating spirit that is the heart of a religious community.”

But I’m a layperson. Can I even have a charism? In wandering around the web, it didn’t take me long to find the answer. The Catherine of Sienna Institute provided the following two questions and answers.

WHAT IS A CHARISM OR SPIRITUAL GIFT? 

  • Charism is simply the Greek word used in the New Testament for “favor” or “gratuitous gift.” Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to be powerful channels of God’s love and redeeming presence in the world. Whether extraordinary or ordinary, charisms are to be used in charity or service to build up the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003).

HOW DO CHARISMS OR SPIRITUAL GIFTS DIFFER FROM NATURAL TALENTS? 

  • Charisms, or spiritual gifts, differ from natural talents in two important ways. Charisms are not “inborn” or inherited from our parents, but are given to us by the Holy Spirit, whom we received through baptism and confirmation, two of the three sacraments of initiation. Charisms are also supernaturally empowered. They are focused outward and enable Christians to bear results for the Kingdom of God above and beyond our normal human abilities.
  • As disciples, we offer our entire selves, including our personalities, natural talents, education, life experience, and background to God to be used for his purposes. Our natural talents can become wonderful tools for God’s purposes, and sometimes an already existing natural gift is transformed by the Holy Spirit into a supernaturally empowered charism. But when we serve God, we are not limited to just the gifts with which we were born! Some charisms may seem ‘extraordinary’ (such as prophecy, healing, or discernment of spirits) and others quite ‘ordinary’ (such as administration, service, hospitality, or mercy), but all charisms are supernaturally empowered. We use our charisms together with our natural talents and all that we are to serve God and our neighbor.

At the risk of being decapitated, I’m going to stick my neck out and state that writing may be my charism. Holy Spirit, if I’ve missed the boat on this, please tell me. Although I’m not entirely confident in my writing abilities, I remain committed and will hopefully become better. But I’m struggling somewhat with direction.

So, my specific challenge to readers is this.

To the question of charism, what should I be writing about? Where can I best serve God and my neighbor? Should I continue in the same vein as represented by earlier posts, i.e., stay the course? Should I emphasize some of my “boxes” and de-emphasize others? Are there perspectives on issues that aren’t getting Catholic airtime? Can you offer suggestions to help me in my effort to accomplish God’s will?

This post is about finding the right voice. To the extent you can help me, I will be eternally grateful.

God bless!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Timothy-Burdick/22402125 Timothy Burdick

    You are a writer. THAT is your charism. Let the spirit choose your topics and don’t let any one of us little people tell you what to write about. Let that be between you and God.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Wise counsel Timothy. And of course, you’re right. But discerning the Holy Spirit versus my own baggage or even evil, God forbid, is a real challenge.

      • QueenieB

        Fear not. The Holy Spirit uses the heaviest baggage and the evilest evil for His own redemptive purposes, when we submit to Him in His grace. Not that you intend or commit any evil, of course, but that which exists will affect us as humans one way or another.
        Of course, I am just giving my own opinion, and I may be completely wrong.
        For my part, I second Timothy’s word: Listen only to the Lord on your writing, and all shall be most well.
        Blessings be upon you as you do so.

  • Craig

    I too feel like I am sticking my neck out in responding (or maybe it’s yours?). I say that because my spiritual gift is not writing, editing, or consulting writers. Knowing that, hopefully I’m retracting your/our necks. I have fairly recently become an active reader, mainly in search of a positive or more healthy way of spending my time as I stopped drinking alcohol a little more than a year ago. I usually find myself reading about Christian relevant topics, business/banking/management/leadership, or the outdoors.
    My response to your challenge is mainly lobbing it back to you (I can hear your excitement and gratitude :) ) I will say that while reading I find myself enjoying posts or writing that is inspired by a topic that the author is particularly passionate, opinionated, or knowledgeable is what I find to be most enjoyable. Your personal and daily experiences where you find yourself glorifying God, and/or struggling with your sinful nature (your natural tendency being no different than mine) seems to be a good place to start. These insights and experiences will be the most rewarding and of interest, in my humble opinion. Good luck and God bless.
    Craig

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Craig. Much thanks. On the personal stuff, sometimes you worry about sharing too much, but if folks can take away something of value, then it’s good. In some of my earlier posts, I shared my experiences with despair for example, and one never knows if it’s well received. But ultimately, one has to write honestly.

  • Josh Mercer

    Write about men and what it means to be a man of virtue. In other words true manliness (not bravado). Just isn’t nearly enough of that writing these days.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Thanks Josh. I’m going to think about that. You might be on to something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johncharleswalker John Charles Walker

    1. As you found the Catherine of Siena program, order their “Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory” ($10) and take the test in it. Taking the class is not necessary, but helpful. Then, focus on one of the top charisms listed, and test it. Create a journal that you can review later to see if it, in particular, is bearing fruits specific to benefiting the Church. 2. Contact the program and see if there is a personal gifts interviewer in your area that can conduct the personal gifts interview.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      You must be a teacher! It seems I now have homework. Thanks John. By the way, I quickly read your facebook bio, it’s inspiring!

      • Nan

        The interview comes before testing the charisms. The institute has people available to conduct phone interview; if you take the workshop, the parish offering it may have interviewers available, but they may not have gone through the process to conduct interviews elsewhere.

  • Josee

    I can only tell you how i referred your post. I referred your post to several former military personnel people. These people might not be interested in the type of blogs i usually read although i see them as all related. They NEED to hear the faith experience from your perspective. Thank you for expressing your faith witness inyour blog.thank for your efforts to build up the Body of Christ.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Hi Josee, I appreciate your comments and your time in visiting my site. I’m not sure how I would have responded to my blog back in my Marine days. I kind of thought I was god. But I think you’re right. I have a shared experience with military folks, I’ve learned a ton of lessons the hard way, and if people are willing to be open, who knows. Just maybe the truth about Jesus will resonate somewhere in their soul.

  • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

    Frank just left me a comment on my About page. Please wander over and see what he has to say. He needs our prayers.

  • one little ewe lamb

    As charisms are gifts I would encourage you to seek the counsel of The Giftgiver of your charism(s). That you write seems to me not to be the identification of the gift(s) but rather the means by which you articulate and distribute the fruits of those gift(s).

    From what I read of your premise what peaks my interest is what you might have to offer in regard to prayer and its practice and its fruits in your life. It would be a grand thing to track your ongoing-conversion (as we all do together) and discovery of the exact nature of the charism(s) you have been given for the building up of the Church.

    To learn of them through you is online reportage. To learn of them with you, in personal contact and often to experience the being built in the community of persons which is the Church, is something not possible via blogging (my opinion only). This observation offered as I know how often it is that we are not the first to know the charisms gratnted to us.

    How glorious to be the bearer of His gifts rather than the mirror reflection of the gifts we bear from Him!

    May you be blessed and be a blessing to others in your endeavours here.

    in Caritas,

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      I’ve noticed that so many of the responses are not just food for thought––but a feast!

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  • Victor Leal

    G.K. Chesterton once said anything worth doing is worth doing badly. He meant we should be humble and realize that we will get better by doing. Any craft begins with ( or used to begin with ) learning how to use the tools or hold the instruments then progressing to notes, scales etc.

    If writing leaves you energized and you are receiving positive feedback, then you probably have a gift for it.

    Like any gift, you can always improve by working at it ( which is what you are doing ). Check out Heather King’s blog: Shirt of Flame. She is an incredibly gifted Catholic writer and offers classes on the subject.

    I have a desire myself to write but Im too scared to get going. Perhaps by responding to your question I was answering my own.

    Godspeed.

    Victor Leal
    Victor@myleals.com

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Hey Victor. Fear is understandable but from your comment, I bet you have a lot to contribute. You kind of learn as you go but people are incredibly generous with positive feedback.

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  • Jason

    I too was taken in by Tito Edwards – I’m a nobody who was writing my reflections on faith and conversion and suddenly, boom. God is good. Keep writing. Even if only one person reads your blog and it changes their life, it was all worth it.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      For one person to change their life…
      Exactly. One soul at a time. Thanks Jason. God bless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-L-Gray/100001385030074 David L. Gray

    So glad to have your voice on the internet Marcus. Just keep sharing what God has ordered you to share Brother, and leave the increase to Him. Blessing and Shalom.

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Hi David. Your encouragement is most appreciated. God bless!

  • Br. Nicholas Blackwell

    Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts [...] 1King 19:10. This is a regular focus point for us Carmelites. This doesn’t summarize our whole charism, but provides a serious foundation for it.

    I hope this helps.

    Br. Nicholas, O.Carm.

  • http://twitter.com/passionpapist Passionate Papist

    Marcus, it’s funny you should write this article. I am a relatively new blogger myself, and have been a bit inconsistent in my posting frequency of late. Part of the problem is I have the same questions – what should I be writing about? I have written a number of articles on suffering and mercy, and sometimes I wonder if my topics are not varied enough! I guess it’s a temptation that we face when we want to make sure that what we are writing is relevant. I know that I probably am too concerned with wanting to ensure that people will like what I write, or that the post will get as many views as possible. I guess that’s my own need to be affirmed, instead of just focusing on trying to glorify God, as you mention. If we do that, then nothing else really matters, whether only one person is affected, or many. So, I can intellectually see that this is true, but it’s still hard to fight against the human nature that wants to be somebody, or to be valued by somebody. I would also appreciate any feedback you might give me if you have a chance to visit my blog at http://www.passionatepapist.com.

    Peace,

    Sean

    • http://www.marcusallensteele.com/ Marcus Allen Steele

      Hi Sean, thanks for your comment. I just took a look at your blog and have some thoughts on it and blogging in general. Your internal process is no doubt quite familiar to folks who are thinking of jumping into the Internet arena. As for me, my decision to blog was based on a number of considerations which are evidenced by the following questions. But first, I needed to commit to writing multiple times a week, “all in” as it were. I’m generally not interesting in returning to bloggers who are irregular in their writing. That’s just me. And with everything in life, without commitment, you’re sunk.

      There are literally millions of blogs as I understand it. Would my voice and experiences in life be of value to a reader? Do I have something unique to say? Would it be positive, civil, charitable, funny? Are my reflections on faith consistent with Catholic teaching? Are there teachable moments? Would I have any credibility? Am I passionate about it or could I be easily derailed? Is it okay to want validation from readers? Do I have the ability to build an audience? I do have a book that I ultimately want to publish so are platform considerations okay? Am I writing for me or others? Is the quality of writing important or is the intended message more germane? What about the website itself? Straight vanilla or put a little design in it? Would I be willing to try and connect with like-minded bloggers? Do I want to be part of a community?

      I’ve only been blogging for a little over three months. It’s been a great learning process. But the overarching consideration is really the glory of God. I don’t think I realized that in the beginning. Even more, I wonder how I can make more of an impact. So from your perspective, you need to weigh a number of factors. I can truthfully say however that if I weren’t getting positive feedback, I would reconsider my decision to blog. We all have talents but for some it may not be in writing. God may want us to battle elsewhere.

      I may have rambled somewhat but those are my thoughts off the top. God bless!

      • http://twitter.com/passionpapist Passionate Papist

        Marcus, thanks for the feedback, and for the kick in the pants on posting schedule! :) I will recommit to a posting schedule of 2-3 times per week! :) God Bless.