Ardent Charity: How Mary’s Example Sets the Tone for Today’s Application

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.

CCC Quote on 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!

Mary's Ardent Charity ImageEvery 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.

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9 thoughts on “Ardent Charity: How Mary’s Example Sets the Tone for Today’s Application

  1. This was a great article.

    Another word for this type of charity is Agape. In greek it is a type of self-sacrificing love that gives all of itself for the Love of God and its neighbour.

    A good bible verse for this type of charity is John 21:15-17

    (You’re blogpost made me remember this one from lent)

    When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep”

    In this verse Jesus is asking Peter if he (Agape) loves him. If he loves him enough to eschew everything in life for Jesus’ sake.

    Jesus had not died yet, so Peter was thinking of the brotherly love (philieo), and was answering that yes, I (philieo)love you like a brother.
    Jesus was trying to plant the seeds of the type of love God demands in Peter – and in all of us- the agape, self-saceificing charity to God and neighbor.
    But peter did not understand. No one could understand (but Mary who demonstrated it herself), until Jesus sacrificed himself for us, the greatest form of Agape. The self-sacrificing of the son of God for love of all.

    I hope you don’t mind the long comment. I thought this might be interesting in light of your post today.

    I also did not know about the three hail mary’s being for an increase in Faith, Hope, amd Charity.
    That is very interesting, amd now I know why we pray those three!
    Thank you very much.

    1. Thank you!

      My chaplain and I had actually discussed that particular Agape vs. Phileo love conversation between Jesus and Peter a while back.

      Thank you for sharing it, so that others may also benefit from the knowledge!

      And, glad to impart the three Hail Mary’s – I learned that a couple years ago, but not too long ago! I never knew it growing up. I just knew we had the three Hail Mary’s! 😂

  2. Thank you so much for this Marian Virtue post on Ardent Charity. I was so happy to hear about the meaning of the three Hail Mary’s in the rosary, Faith, Hope & Charity. This is a perfect way to bring even more meaning, & another reason to pray the rosary daily. I am challenged with be a charitable person all the time. Your post was very helpful, I will be praying for you. Thank you…

    1. Thank you so much!! I am so thrilled someone else found some meaning from this post! And, humbled. 😊

      I will pray for you, too, Jan! Thank you for prayers.

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