This post is a part of a Marian Virtue Series, running every Wednesday and Friday. It will conclude on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. If you are just joining the series now and want to learn more you can start here: Introduction to Marian Virtue Series.
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At the beginning of the Rosary, we recite three “Hail Mary’s” – one for an increase of Faith, one for an increase of Hope, and the last one reserved for an increase of the third theological virtue – Charity.
Charity is best defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC); 1822 reads,
“Charity is the theological virtue which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”
In all of history, there have only been two people in the world to perfectly exemplify this theological virtue. Jesus, fully human and fully Divine, displayed His charity when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “…yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
However, even before Christ’s charity could exist, His mother first had to allow her own, perfect, ardent charity to unfold for humanity – by giving her fiat to God. Nowhere is this more evident than the words murmured by Mary in Luke 1:38,
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word.”
Mary serves as a pristine reminder of what perfect charity looks like, showcasing the beginning of a life full of charity through her humble response to the Archangel Gabriel, even though her response was given as a young girl. Yet, her selfless fiat did not see her sit back and rest – instead, she immediately packed up and went to assist her cousin Elizabeth who was expecting the man who would become John the Baptist. Mary continued with ardent charity throughout Jesus’ life – presenting Him at the temple as a babe, teaching Him Judaism, and Judaic Law, and ultimately, gently nudging Him into his life of public ministry during the wedding feast at Cana. All the while, she knew she would sacrifice her only Son for the salvation of humanity.
And, through it all, her love for God above all things shone, and continues to shine, brightly.
This happened centuries ago, so you might be wondering what all this has to do with today, with the society in which we live. We live in a cold, harsh world. Every news segment is filled with the violence in the world, the hatred in the world, and the evil things going on throughout the world. The Church pulls no punches in reminding us there is a battle raging – a battle for souls, in which our salvation, for eternity, hangs in the balance.
To be blunt, Mary’s Ardent Charity has everything to do with today!
Every time we recite the Rosary, we are reminded on that first, third “Hail Mary,” that we are to be seeking to increase in charity, or simply, to increase the love in our lives. Going against the grain of the world around us, we are called to eschew an increase of love for ourselves and our own material gain. Instead, we are called to ask for an increase in charity toward God – and, toward our neighbor.
For each of us, this call to ardent charity will look differently, and yet, it will look eerily similar.
Charity means seeing Christ in every person we encounter – our spouses, our children, the cashier at the grocery store, the individual with handicaps, the person battling mental illness, or the individual who is homeless and has not showered in days. It is seeing beyond the addiction carried by another person standing next to you.
Charity is seeing the individual and recognizing their God-given beauty and talents.
Charity means not just to glancing in the other person’s direction, but to look deeply into another person’s eyes and to actively SEE the person standing there.
Charity is as “simple” as helping a shorter person reach something on the top shelf, to offering an elderly person a hand to briefly hold. It is as “simple” as staying awake in the middle of the night with a sick child, gently stroking the forehead and applying cold compresses. It is as “simple” as holding your tongue when you want to retort back, or not raging on the road when someone cuts you off.
Charity is taking extra time out of your day to even briefly extend some goodness and kindness in another person’s direction.
It also means that someday, we may be challenged, as St. Maximilian Kolbe was, to possibly be asked to give our own lives so that another may live.
Charity includes praising God for allowing us the opportunity to live a life, loving God above all else, and extending that love to our neighbor – loving them, as we love ourselves.
There is a saying, “Man plans and God laughs.” Ardent charity calls us to look at the monkey-wrench thrown in to our personal plans, and to embrace God’s plans over our own. Charity is the reminder that while acknowledging, “well-played, God,” you are ready and willing to do His will for your life.
Charity is about putting our own pride aside, and allowing Him to transform us into as full an image and likeness of God as we are capable of becoming as humans!
By no means am I perfect at emulating ardent charity. I falter and fail routinely. What I ask of you, dear reader, is that you pray that I increase my moments of charity, and I shall pray for you as well.
One lucky reader will win Danielle Noonan’s Undone EP. Danielle is a songwriter and worship leader whose joyful passion gives light to our world’s need for authentic prayer, unity, and the New Evangelization. She travels the country sharing her gift of song and testimony for churches, conferences, and festivals for people of all ages.
With a missionary heart, Danielle’s desire to empower people through the common denominator of music has inspired people to find joy in the Gospel and their calling as Christians. Danielle currently resides in Missouri City, Texas with her husband Chris and their three boys.
Please support this amazing Catholic musician and continue to join us in this Marian Virtue Series.