Posts Tagged ‘gifts’

Books for sale…..Easter…New Catholic? First Communion…Confirmation. 

"amy welborn"


I also have copies of all the Prove It books on hand – so check out the bookstore page for prices on those. 



Read Full Post »

I’ll make this short and not-sweet and contrarian and mildly incendiary.

If you grew up (as I did) in the 60’s and 70’s and were formed (as I was) by newfangled Catholic catechesis, you know very well what being Catholic is all about, because there apparently isn’t much to it:

1) God is love


2) The reason  – the reason! – you’re here on earth is to use your unique, God-given gifts ‘n talents to build up the Kingdom of God.

Those of us who’ve found that newfangled and groovy catechesis wanting (like me) have usually focused on #1, pointing out how very true and yes, fundamental it is, but how the simplistic formation we receive couldn’t begin to touch the depth of that truth, and left us wondering…and? 

In recent years, though – really, ever since I wrote Here. Now.  – I’ve given more and more thought to the weaknesses and assumptions of #2.

That is, the more I immersed myself in Scripture and really tried to listen to Jesus in the Gospels without blinders or an agenda (and what’s the agenda most of us have when we encounter Scripture? It’s basically…tell me something, but tell me something that won’t hurt too badly. Or maybe that even won’t hurt at all. Tell me something, but don’t tell me to change.)  ….the more I wondered. The more I didn’t hear that.

Listening to the voices that speak through two thousand years of Catholic spirituality – in our prayers, our liturgy, our saints – only made the gifts n’ talents mission statement more sketchy as a focus of discipleship.

Oh, stop.  Yes "Amy Welborn" we all have our gifts. And talents. And charisms.  Yes, we’re supposed to use them.  Yes, I want insanely smart and tenacious scientists designing 3D paper jawsYes, I encourage my kids to use their, er, gifts and talents.  Yes! Yes, want companies that make good stuff and services that serve the needy to be managed by people who have a gift for management, not living embodiments of the Peter Principle.  Apply the same Yes to churchy people. Yes. Yes. Yes.


Is that the point of discipleship? 

And: what happens when we let gifts n’ talents take center stage? 

My answers:

The point of discipleship – of belonging to Christ, is holiness. That means, as Paul tells us over and over, letting Christ live in us.  Letting ourselves be consumed by the love of Christ.

Dying to self. 

What happens when gifts n’ talents take center stage?

Maybe it deepens our temptations to not die to self. 

A couple of points:

1) I’ll generalize here and speculate that the centrality of gifts n’ talents during the past decades is a reaction – as so much of what we swim in in our Church waters – to some aspects of pre-Conciliar life.  Specifically , a reaction to the shape of religious life ,  which put a premium on obedience as the most important evangelical counsel.

2) Using your gifts n’ talents for building up the kingdom is nice, and has some support in Scripture and in the tradition, but really, it is such a #WealthyFirstWorld21stCenturyProblem.  If we were going to do an historical survey of Catholic spiritual trends, it would be pretty obvious that this mode of spirituality – especially as a defining, central motivation and goal – is the product of an era and culture in which people have freedom, opportunity and choice.

Which is fine.  It’s real, and there’s truth in it.

But it’s not the deepest truth of Catholic spirituality. I don’t think.

What is?

The Cross, of course.  The Cross, which is that profound expression, not of gifts, talents and treasure, but of Love.  Sacrificial Love that is stripped of everything for the sake of that Love.

It’s a mix, isn’t it? It’s a mystery and a complex soup, this life.  Each of us is a beloved, unique being, created by God, each uniquely gifted with creativity, reason and freedom.

But whose gifts ‘n talents take them to wiping up an elderly Alzheimer’s patient?

There’s a few, that’s true.  But it’s also true that the scales aren’t exactly balanced.  There is a lot more sad, difficult, messy, unpleasant and even tragic work to do out there than people who feel jazzed and fulfilled in the doing of it.

Even in my own house, every day. My gifts ‘n talents are irrelevant to most of that. What matters is if I am loving and serving as Christ did.

If that call to love as Christ does means engaging what I think are my gifts?


But as the saints teach us, if that call to love as Christ does means putting aside what I think are my gifts for the sake of Christ in the person in need – and putting them aside either for the moment or perhaps forever?

Even greater.

All I’m saying is that as a central paradigm for Catholic spirituality, the “the purpose of your life is to figure out your unique, beautiful gifts for the betterment of the kingdom” is not only inadequate, but actually….maybe…foreign to the deepest traditions of Catholic spirituality? That it’s more an expression of the priorities of a prosperous social setting than of the actual Gospel? That if you presented this to any saint of any era as a central component of Catholic spirituality, they might just stare at you blankly and ask you – either politely or bluntly, depending on their ..er…uniquely gifted personality…where,exactly, the Cross is in all of that?

(Oh…and I didn’t even get to the “building up the Kingdom of God” part…)
Update:   Love this from the comments: 
Some of the holiest people I know seem bereft of ‘gifts ‘n’ talents’.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: