So, how to we come to know what our gifts are without paying for weeks of intense self-centeredness?
1. The first route to knowing one's gifts in a Catholic context would be the discernment God gives every parent. Parents know from the moment of a child's birth something of the character and natural gifts of that child. God gives much information about children to praying and reflective parents. Parents who seem estranged from their children or who claim they do not understand a child's gifts are not listening to God in the daily event of domestic life. The character and gifts of a child blossom early in good, nurturing homes. The sacraments inform the natural gifts and give additional supernatural ones, the next point.
2.Gifts of the theological virtues are given at baptism as well as helps to develop the cardinal virtues. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given at confirmation and a good parent helps form these gifts into lasting character traits, as well as even strong charisms for a certain vocation.
3.Simplicity teaches us what our gifts actually are. Here is Garrigou-Lagrange, again, as I have posted this before, on simplicity.
The souls of such men as St. Joseph, St. John, St. Francis, St. Dominic, the Cure of Ars give us some idea of this simplicity of God; but still more the soul of Mary, and especially the holy soul of Jesus, who said: "If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome." That is, if your soul is simple in its outlook, it will be in all things enlightened, steadfast, loyal, sincere, and free from all duplicity." Be ye wise as serpents [so as not to be seduced by the world], and simple as doves, " so as to remain always in God's truth." I confess to Thee, O Father,... because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones." "Let your speech be yea, yea: no, no" (Matt. 10: 16; 11: 25; 5: 37)
It is a great gift not ever to fall into mortal sin, as simplicity comes to the pure in heart.
In the Old Testament we read: "Seek the Lord in simplicity of heart" (Wis. 1: 1) ; "Better is the poor man that walketh in his simplicity, than a rich man that is perverse in his lips and unwise" (Prov. 19:1). "Let us all die in our innocency," cried the Maccabees amid the injustices that oppressed them (I Mach. 2:37). "Obey... in simplicity of heart," said St. Paul (Col. 3: 22) ; and he admonishes the Corinthians not to lose "the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11: 3).
This simplicity, says Bossuet, enables an introverted soul to comprehend even the heights of God, the ways of Providence, the unfathomable mysteries which to a complex soul are a scandal, the mysteries of infinite justice and mercy, and the supreme liberty of the divine good pleasure. All these mysteries, in spite of their transcendence and obscurity, are simple for those of simple vision.
The reason is that, in divine matters, the simplest things, such as the Our Father, are also the most profound. On the other hand, in the things of this world, containing both good and evil closely intermingled and thereby exceedingly complex, anybody who is simple is lacking in penetration and will remain naive, unsuspecting, and shallow. In the things of God simplicity is combined with depth and loftiness; for the sublimest of divine things as also the deepest things of our heart, are simplicity itself.
4. Teachers, working with parents, have a duty to find out the external and even the internal gifts of a child. How many times have I sensed as a Catholic teacher, a vocation, and encouraged the young person to follow this to conclusion?
5. Leadership training is not the same as knowing or acknowledging gifts, as leadership qualities are encouraged after a person is seen as having such gifts. But, natural gifts should impinge on supernatural gifts.
6. Most people who are praying and reflective have a sense of their gifts. The most obvious way is to see what interests a person. Does someone love pencils, papers, computers, words, reading, researching? Most likely that person has a gift of writing and perhaps, teaching. Does someone love baking, being in the kitchen, reading about recipes, sharing baked goods? Most likely that person has the gift of baking and hospitality, even motherhood. Does a little boy want to read about martyrs, and dress up like them on All Saints, and follow the Church calendar of saints? Most likely that child will be a martyr or be involved in a servant-type of vocation. Does a little girl love her baby brothers and sisters to the point of loving to care for them, even in the hard work? She may be called to motherhood. Or she may have a vocation to be a sister, as she loves to serve.
7. Not everyone has charismatic gifts as some charismatics believe. There are few prophets and fewer interpreters of tongues. The list of gifts in St. Paul mix both charisms and more ordinary, natural gifts which can be supernaturalized by God. Sometimes a person obviously has a charism, such as a woman who has a stutter can sing in the choir without halting, clearly an intervention from God.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
8. Notice that St. Paul refers to services as well as gifts. To pretend that a service is a charismatic gift confuses the levels of gifts. Remember, the Church is not a democracy, and people do not have to "feel equal" about gifts or services. One of the greatest deceits of the gifting courses is to level out gifts, instead of teaching humility.
9. The gifts received in confirmation are for all the confirmed, not merely for some. These gifts PERFECT the virtues given at baptism. They are: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. We all have these, all who are confirmed in the Catholic Church.
10. Some gifts are for the Church and some are for growing in personal holiness, but there can be overlaps, which I can cover later today. Not all have the same gifts, and some gifts are less obvious than others.