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Posts Tagged ‘charity’

For Iames the gentele iugeth in his bokes
That fayth withouten feet is feblore than naught
And as ded as a dore-nayl but yf the dedes folowe:
Fides sine operibus mortua est.
Chastite withouten charite worth cheyned in hell;
Hit is as lewed as a laumpe that no liht is ynne. (I.181-185)

For gentle James judges in his book
That faith without works is a feeble thing,
Dead as a doornail unless deeds follow:
Faith without works is dead
Chastity less charity will be chained in hell;
It is as useless as a lamp that bears no light. (Trans. Pearsall)

William Langlang, Piers Plowman

As we draw closer to Lent, these words haunt me.

Two weeks ago I was on the bus, as is often, and most folks were quiet and enjoying the dark rainy ride home from a long day at work, save one woman on her phone. She had her newborn snuggled up to her in a Moby-wrap, and was talking to her partner(?) about their rent due and another issue involving a lawyer and more money going out of their pockets. It was likely uncomfortable to most because her business had instantly become their business. I imagine most people might have been upset as this one phone call was now their unsolicited phone call.

I knew I had a five-dollar bill in my billfold. It wasn’t a twenty or a fifty or even a ten. And it was more than just a crumpled single or a bit of change. It was enough to offer mercy, but hopefully not enough to make her feel uncomfortable to take it. “It’s not much,” I though over in my head, “but this may help you and your child more than I will help me.” The words were with me and well rehearsed. I even felt back in my wallet to make sure the bill was still there. It was, but as we drew nearer to the busstop, I grew tense. I worried that the gesture might embarrass her in front of so many people on the full bus. “I don’t want/need your charity,” I imagined her saying. She might even resent me and my offer, and give me a few words in reply for sticking my nose in her family’s financial business.

The bus stopped. The crowds and I exited as the mother and her son sat quietly to move on to the next terminal.

Langland’s words haunt me.

Langland is writing a poem about the world he sees around him, drenched in commerce and commodification. The Church, evinced its priests, monks, and friars are  everywhere in his society, but so too vice; the virtues are latent.

The poem’s main protagonist, Will, is all too often concerned with how he might save his soul (I.80).

Me too, Good Will.

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Omnis homo naturaliter scire desiderat. Sed scientia sine timore Dei quid importat? Melior est profecto rusticus humilis, qui Deo fervit, quam superbus philosophus, qui se neglecto cursum caeli confiderat. Qui bene se ipsum cognoscit sibi ipsi vilescit, nec laudibus delectatur humanis. Si scirem omnia quæ in mundo sunt, et non essem in charitate, quid me juavert coram Deo, qui me judicaturus est ex facto? (I.II.1)

Every man naturally desires to know, but of what import is knowledge without the fear of God? Better is the humble yeoman, who fears God, than the haughty philosoph who relies on the patterns of the stars, much to his own detriment. He who knows himself well holds himself cheap, and does not delight in the praises of men. If I knew all the things in the world, but did not dwell in charity, what of it would help me before my God, who will judge me according to my deeds? (Translation mine)

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

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[My response to “A Catholic tradition of social justice,” The News & Observer, May 12, 2012]

We Catholics do not just help the poor; we are the poor. For this reason we share our gifts with each other. Indeed, some of these gifts will go toward the construction of a new Cathedral, which in turn we will share in the worship of Christ. Such worship inspires greater numbers of the faithful to charity, both within this diocese and beyond. We do not just give to an organization to which we do not belong. We strive, often imperfectly, to have our goods and gifts in common for the construction of a kingdom to the benefit of the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner, and others in distress. If others outside of the Church are concerned with the welfare of the poor in our area, they, too, should give as they are able; there are number of groups that strive in an honest way to alleviate the struggles of those affected by poverty, hunger, drug-addiction, et al.

Perhaps we all might begin with the money we give to political campaigns or PACs. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an ad that has been charitable or constructive, either in the feeding of the hungry or otherwise.

Charles H. McCants
Raleigh, NC

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Unde intellectus plus participans de lumine gloriae, perfectius Deum videbit. Plus autem participabit de lumine gloriae, qui plus habet de caritate, quia ubi est maior caritas, ibi est maius desiderium; et desiderium quodammodo facit desiderantem aptum et paratum ad susceptionem desiderati. Unde qui plus habebit de caritate, perfectius Deum videbit, et beatior erit.

Hence the intellect which has more of the light of glory will see God the more perfectly; and he will have a fuller participation of the light of glory who has more charity; because where there is the greater charity, there is the more desire; and desire in a certain degree makes the one desiring apt and prepared to receive the object desired. Hence he who possesses the more charity, will see God the more perfectly, and will be the more beatified. [Ia q. 12 a. 1 co]

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

In charity, we love God and neighbor (as well as ourselves) in the same act. Our love for God must always include our love of self and neighbor, and our love for self and neighbor must always be ordered to our love for God. At first glance this might appear to be a strange teaching. When we are loving the infinitely lovable God, must we have in view our far less lovable neighbor, let alone ourselves? Aquinas sees this form an eschatological perspective; “The aspect under which our neighbor is to be loved, is God, since what we ought to love in our neighbor is that he may be in God. Hence it is clear that it is specifically the same act whereby we love God, and whereby we love our neighbor” [ST IIa-IIae q.25 a.1]. The same holds with our love of self. Aquinas’ perspective is also rooted in the theology of creation. We love our neighbors, including our enemies, because insofar as they exist, the participate in God the Trinity. We love them as creatures called to attain to the fullness of beatific participation in God the Trinity. Thus we can love them without loving their sins. (8)

Matthew Levering, The Betrayal of Charity

char·i·ty
n., Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love.

[Middle English charite, from Old French, Christian love, from Latin cāritās, affection, from cārus, dear. cf., Gr. ἀγάπη]

Benozzo Gozzoli, The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas (15th cent.)

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