This past Wednesday, I began the morning with a three hour glucose test for this pregnancy. It is the first time I’ve ever had to take a three-hour test, and the logistics of planning one are simply not fun, nor are they something I ever want to plan again.
After that, it was off to speech for my eldest, and while it was not a Holy Day of Obligation, we then rushed off to the evening Mass at our local military chapel. It had been a crazy, hectic day, and my kids were feeling it.
They weren’t feeling Mass. Which meant I felt very little of Mass, too.
However, in the midst of thoughts on the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, our chaplain remarked on something which has stuck with me.
He stated, “Almsgiving is, simply, charity. Not in the give everything away type of charity we think of, but instead, the greatest of the virtues.” He further went on to discuss charity in terms of being kind and gracious to the person who may grate on your nerves the most. He quipped, “It could even be the person who lives with you,” knowing many families there were also trying to balance Ash Wednesday with the secular celebration of Valentine’s Day. He reminded us that charity doesn’t consist of grand actions, nor does it consist of earning accolades or rewards for what we do; instead, we should give charity – love – in secret, so that our Father who sees all in secret, will give us our just reward. Living for God was a central component of our chaplain’s homily.
Our chaplain then stated,
Almsgiving is most emblematic of Christ.
Charity – or, in our chaplain’s homily, almsgiving – is the one virtue that brings us closest to acting as Christ’s hands to another person.
And, the message has resonated with me for the better part of five days now – how can I be more charitable toward others? More specifically, how can I be more charitable toward my little mirrors – also known as my children? How can I be more charitable toward my husband? What can I do, as we progress on the journey of Lent, with a goal of growing closer to Christ, to fully invest myself in this particular pillar of Lent – that of almsgiving?
I figured reviewing this previously published piece would be a good start, and encourage all of us to take some time contemplating the aforementioned questions.
How can we be more charitable this Lent?
The rest of this post is a re-post of a previously published piece for a series. It has been updated for this particular piece, but you can find the original post here.
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.