Mike’s Meditations: What Are Your God-Given Gifts?

by Mike Van Vranken

As a child in school, I memorized the “gifts of the Holy Spirit:” wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord,” all from the prophet Isaiah. Then, we committed to memory the “fruit of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). I later learned enough Scripture to know that everything belongs to God. Consequently, all good gifts must come from God. And in addition, there are many Scriptures attesting that we have each received gifts from our good and gracious God.

So, how do we know what our gifts are? And equally important, how do we know when, where and how to use them? Do you have trouble, at this moment in your life, knowing your gifts and how God wants you to use them? Well, relax! You are not alone. I have learned that knowing our gifts takes effort. Doing something with our gifts, takes love.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us a starting point. He suggests we ask God for interior knowledge of all the great good we have received from Him. By “interior knowledge,” he is challenging us to do more than just memorize a list of gifts as we did as children. He wants us to open ourselves so God can place in our minds and hearts all the good things He has given us. He wants us to not only know of these gifts intellectually, but to feel them, to allow their very essence to penetrate who we are. Can we consume these gifts in our hearts to such a point that we can taste them, hear them, touch them, smell them and even see them? Can we, with God’s grace, experience these gifts, which are now part of who we have become?

Ignatius continues by asking us to consider how all these good gifts descend from above. He suggests that we, in silence, picture with our imagination how goodness, piety, mercy, justice, etc. all come down upon us like rays from the sun. See, feel, smell, taste and even hear those rays of sun, filled with God and His gifts, penetrating your entire body, soul and spirit. Experience each gift closely. Give each gift a name, and continually thank God for that particular gift. This is how we prayerfully obtain the interior knowledge he is talking about.

However, this interior knowledge is not enough. Ignatius now asks us to pray for God’s powerful grace to help us be so stirred with gratitude, that we may be able to love and serve Him in all things, all creatures, and all people. And, in all of this, he reminds us that God is assisting us, working with us, even laboring with us to love Him so much that we desire to serve Him by using these gifts to intimately and passionately love all of His creation; including each other.

I respectfully suggest that you take some time with God this month and pray for the grace to interiorly know and be aware of all of the gifts He has given you. Then, if you have the courage, pray for the further grace to be so moved with gratitude and thanksgiving, that you offer to serve Him in all things, in all creatures, and in all people. This is a transformation that allows us to work with God to change the world.

On Another Note:
When I began submitting these articles to The Catholic Connection about a decade ago, our editor, Jessica Rinaudo, graciously welcomed me as a contributing writer. With gentleness, compassion and a deep love for the people of God, she gifted her expertise and taught me how to share with the Church through my writing. Her many literary talents and gifts, as well as her countless spiritual gifts, always freely given with love, have been more of a blessing to me than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. By sharing her gifts with our entire diocese, we all will reap many harvests for decades to come. As she and her family follow God’s call to sow even greater seeds in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, I ask you to join me in prayer for Jessica and her family – that God will grant them the grace to joyfully and lovingly share their many gifts there, and that He will bless them with His love and His grace in this next leg of their journey, manifested in ways that are more than they could ever think or imagine.

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