By Renée A. Marazon

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1Cor 12:5-7).

St. Paul tells us that each one of us, not some of us, not a few of us, but each one of us has a manifestation of the Spirit. That is to say, you, who are reading this article, have at least one way, and most likely, more than one way that others come to know Christ through you. Do you know what your manifestation of the Spirit is? Do you know for what benefit you have been given your manifestation of the Spirit? Take a moment to read each of the following statements and respond either “yes” or “no” as you do this.
If you responded yes to four out of five of the statements, the charism of encouragement may be one of your spiritual gifts for ministry. If you did not, spend just a moment thinking about someone you know who fits these statements and thank God for this person who may have the charism of encouragement.

Encouragement is the special ability God gives some to uplift, enrich, comfort, offer words of encouragement and reassurance in such a way that others become filled with hope. What is hope? Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1817).

People with this charism come to the side of those who are discouraged, in trouble, needing truth to set them free, needing reassurance. Though all receive the theological virtue of hope at Baptism, encouragers are God’s instruments for the re-filling of hope into our lives since the world, the flesh and the devil are continually seeking to drain our souls of hope. Encouragers have a way that brings us more deeply into hope—the hope of life in Christ Jesus, that does not disappoint but rather lifts us up and sustains us. The person gifted with the charism of encouragement nurtures and fosters hope in others through simple presence and through spoken words. Encouragers are anointed with God’s promises when they speak and there is a confidence in their voices that lifts our sprit and draws our hearts closer to our Lord and Savior. Encouragers seem to bring forth a listener’s reaction that says, “I know this is God’s truth being spoken to me.”

If there were to be a patron saint of the charism of encouragement it surely would be St. Barnabas. Although his given name was Joseph, he was given the Hebrew name Barnabas, which means, “Son of Encouragement,” by the apostles. In this year of St. Paul it seems most fitting to acknowledge that if it had not been for the encouragement of Barnabas, the other apostles would never have accepted Paul into their Christian community. It was Barnabas who persuaded them and the church in Jerusalem that Paul had been converted from a persecutor to an apostle (Acts 9:26-27).

barnabasPaul’s persuasive and encouraging style set the stage for him to be sent on mission to Antioch to spread the Good News. “When he [Barnabas] arrived [in Antioch] and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24).

St. Paul mentions Barnabas rather often in his letters and although he was not one of the original twelve apostles, he was honored with the title of apostle (Acts 4:36). Perhaps Barnabas is the reason Paul could speak with such conviction about encouragement, referring to it as the charism of exhortation. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation” (Rom 12:8).

Paul’s letters were words of encouragement and hope as well. “As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you conduct yourselves as worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thes 2:11-12).

In this year of St. Paul, let us become more intentionally aware of the charism of encouragement, and name it, nurture it and call it forth in ourselves and in others. Let us thank God for this powerful charism of speech and presence within our prayer groups, our families, our parishes, and our world that has the potential to give HOPE to all of God’s children.

Renée A. Marazon is a Catholic author, consultant, workshop, retreat, and mission presenter.
She is an active member of All Saints Parish in Rossford, Ohio.

Renee serves as the Coordinator of the Diocese of Toledo Ministry to Catholic Charismatic Renewal Healing Ministry and Outreach to Parishes Ministry. She has presented parish missions, retreats, and workshops, for laity, priests, and religious. Her passion is to share the joy and excitement of “life in the Spirit” with all those she meets. Renee will be a guest speaker at the 29th Annual Cleveland Catholic Charismatic “Jesus Our Hope” Conference. Reprinted with permission from PENTECOST Today, Renee A. Marazon, January /February /March 2009 Volume 34 Number 1 .