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The Extent of Fraternal Charity

The Extent of Fraternal Charity

 

Presence of God  – O Lord, make me understand that true charity allows of no exceptions, but embraces with sincere love our neighbor, whoever he may be.

MEDITATION

If charity were based on our neighbor’s qualities, on his merits or his worth, if it were based on the consolation and benefits we receive from him, it would be impossible to extend it to all men. But since it is founded on the neighbor’s relation to God, no one can be legitimately excluded from it, because we all belong to God—we are, in fact, His creatures, and, at least by vocation, His children, redeemed by the Blood of Christ and called to live in “fellowship” with God (cf. 1 John 1:3) by grace here on earth and by the beatific vision in heaven. Even if some, by their sins, have become unworthy of God’s grace, as long as they live, they are always capable of being converted and of being re-admitted to loving intimacy with their heavenly Father.

In the Old Testament, the great mystery of the communication of divine life to men was not revealed. Because Jesus had not yet come to establish these new relations between God and men, the law of fraternal charity did not demand this universal bond; the ancients would not have understood it. But since Jesus has come to tell us that God is our Father who wishes to communicate His divine life to us; since Jesus has come to offer us the grace of adoption as sons of God, the precept of charity has acquired a new breath. “You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45). This is how Jesus Himself gave us the motive of universal charity: we should love all men because they are the children of our heavenly Father; thus, we imitate His universal love for all those who are His creatures, chosen by Him to be His adopted children. Jesus also tells us to love our neighbor “propter Deum,” for God’s sake.

COLLOQUY

for post on fraternal charity“O Jesus, I know I have no enemies; but I do have my natural likes and dislikes: I may feel drawn toward one sister, and may be tempted to go a long way in order to avoid meeting another. However, You tell me that this last is the sister I must love and pray for, even though her manners might lead me to believe that she does not care for me. ‘If you love them that love you, what thanks are to you? For sinners also love those that love them.’ And You teach me more, that it is not enough to love; we must also prove our love. We take a natural delight in pleasing friends, but that is not charity; even sinners do the same.

“From all this, I conclude that I ought to seek the companionship of those sisters for whom I feel a natural aversion and try to be their good Samaritan. It frequently takes only a word or a smile to impart fresh life to a despondent soul. Yet it is not merely in the hope of bringing consolation that I wish to be kind; if it were, I should soon be discouraged, for often well-intentioned words are totally misunderstood. Consequently, in order that I may lose neither time nor labor, I shall try to act solely to please You, O Jesus, by following this precept of the Gospel: ‘When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends nor thy brethren, lest perhaps they also invite thee again, and a recompense be made to thee.’

“O Lord, what can I offer to my sisters but the spiritual feast of sweet and joyful charity? Teach me to imitate St. Paul who rejoiced with those who rejoiced. It is true he also wept with those who wept, and at the feast which I desire to provide, tears must sometimes fall, but I shall always do my best to change them into smiles, since Thou, O Lord, loveth the cheerful giver” (Thèrése of the Child Jesus,  Story of a Soul, 10 – 11).

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Note from Dan: This post on the extent of fraternal charity is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art for this post on the extent of fraternal charity: Partial restoration of Tomb of Thérèse de Lisieux [Statue], artist unknown, photographed by Renardieu, 2005-07-03, CCA-SA 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Patricia

    True charity is a gift of the Holy Spirit and under the control of the Holy Spirit. An act of love must be motivated by this love and come as an impulse from the soul. An act that does not sincerely proceed from this place does not carry merit. Doing something for wrong intentions – to “prove holiness”, to “appear loving”, to pretend show love that you don’t really feel is insincere at best and can become manipulative and full of duplicity. St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this well in the Summa under love of neighbor and what is nessary for salvation and the degree of love for those under evgencical councils. And love must also be ordered. Our first duty is love of God, then ourselves, and then our neighbor.
    For instance, if someone is creating distractions and trying to divert out attention from God, our first duty is to show our love to God by not allowing our attention to be taken from Him out of love for him. Secondly, we must avoid occasions of sin for the good of our own soul and not allow ourselves to be drawn into situations that involve angry discussions. Thirdly, love of neighbor involves doing a good for another, helping them in some way. Allowing someone to create bad situations is not for the good of either person and
    .prudence would tell one to refrain from involvement. For instance, one is at Mass to worship and love God. It us sickening to see someone try to draw attention to themselves by their drama at Mass and then have someone say, ” Love your neighbor”. Getting sucked into those kind of situations is not loving God, which we are called to first. We do not love ourselves because we are not doing what is right for our own soul and our salvation. And it is not really loving our neighbor either because if is enabling them to continue with their erroneous ways, participating in wrong behavior, and setting a bad example for others. “”Love your neighbor” is often misused by manipulators that perpetuate abuse and leave one unable to protect themselves and responds rightly. for example, is someone is stacking someone, either physically or psychologically, one must love oneself above the other. There is so much misunderstanding around this saying of love your neighbor. St. Michael the Archangel, protect us in battle and be our protection from the wickedness and snare of the devil, who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.

    • LizEst

      Yes, there is abuse of the command to love our neighbor and that’s not what we are called to do. The greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. …The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (cf Matthew 22:37-40). Then, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 14:34). Nowhere does Christ teach that love must be first God, second one’s self, third neighbor. That’s not the way he loved us. We could spend our whole lives loving ourselves before ever getting around to loving our neighbor. Christ (though He was in the form of God) loved God first and us second. Loving God means we will necessarily seek to avoid the occasion of sin, deny ourselves, take up our cross, follow him, grow in holiness and virtue. But, loving ourselves second. Nope. That’s not what Jesus taught.

      • Patricia

        Summa Theologica :
        I answer that, There are two things in man, his spiritual nature and his corporeal nature. And a man is said to love himself by reason of his loving himself with regard to his spiritual nature,

        Article 4. Whether our of charity, man ought to love himself more than his neighbor?

        as stated above (II-II:25:7): so that accordingly, a man ought, out of charity, to love himself more than he loves any other person.

        This is evident from the very reason for loving: since, as stated above (II-II:25:12), God is loved as the principle of good, on which the love of charity is founded; while man, out of charity, loves himself by reason of his being a partaker of the aforesaid good, and loves his neighbor by reason of his fellowship in that good. Now fellowship is a reason for love according to a certain union in relation to God. Wherefore just as unity surpasses union, the fact that man himself has a share of the Divine good, is a more potent reason for loving than that another should be a partner with him in that share. Therefore man, out of charity, ought to love himself more than his neighbor: in sign whereof, a man ought not to give way to any evil of sin, which counteracts his share of happiness, not even that he may free his neighbor from sin.

        http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3026.htm#article4

        • LizEst

          So, Patricia, we love ourselves in that loving of God as I said and as St Thomas indicates. Love of self is subsumed in love of God. As well, as Christ has loved us, so we are to love our neighbor. Today’s feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe is a case in point. Christ loved us to the point of folly. And, this is the way St. Kolbe loved as well. He loved his neighbor so much he gave his life for him. He loved Christ by being conformed to him, loving his own self, willing his own holy good as part of that, but also loving his neighbor as Jesus did.

          When you love God, you also love yourself and will your own good, for love of God. But, you don’t make loving your own self, your own comfort, your own will, supercede love of neighbor. If that were the case, we would not have St. Teresa of Calcutta and a whole long list of self-denying and self-sacrificing saints. If that were the case, parents would not sacrifice for their children. Children would not sacrifice for their elderly parents. There would be no religious orders to serve the poor, the homeless, the infirm. Love of self is subsumed in loving God. St. Thomas was trying to explain that not change Jesus words.

          • Patricia

            I agree with self- sacrificing love; this is the love of which Jesus speaks. It is St. Bernard’s 4th degree of love. This comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit and growth in virtue and in holiness. It comes from an impulse from within, naturally as parents etc and supernaturally in the soul in union with God, such as Kolbe.
            I don’t mean that we should love ourselves first as in the sense of we can only help others when our own need/wants are satisfied first.
            I am speaking of someone trying to force you into doing something you don’t think is right – even sinful-
            because someone else wants you to do it to prove that you “love your neighbor” , – of someone who tries to distract you from God under the guise of “loving your neighbor” – People who talk to you after you have just received Holy Communion or while you are adoration and praying. People who try to manipulate situations, intrude in one’s spiritual life to prove “love”.
            Love can only be real pure, sincere, and freely given. Anything else is not really love.

          • Patricia

            Levels of love of neighbor …

          • LizEst

            Please summarize in accord with our guidelines. Thanks.

  • Valerie Saldanha

    Indeed Therese is one of the best persons to teach us how to put the gospel demands of charity into practice. Thanks for this expose.

  • LizEst

    Please kindly do not copy word for word some other source. Just quote briefly and provide the link. Thanks.

  • Anneli Sinkko

    Please tell me why it is so hard to love people you don’t actually like? Or perhaps I am the only one with this problem? I can show love/charity to strangers – that is not a problem. The problem comes evident when I ought to love those who are in my vicinity.

    • LizEst

      Love is a decision, not a feeling. And, that’s where a lot of folks have difficulties. No, I don’t think you are the only one that has difficulty with this. Christ did not command us to like everyone. But, He did command love. Love wills the ultimate good of the person, happiness with God forever.

      • Anneli Sinkko

        Thank you LizEst for your wise teaching. Blessings Anneli

        • LizEst

          You’re welcome Anneli. To God be the glory! May He bless you now and forever.

    • Patricia

      There are many misconceptions as to what love of neighbor actually means. Thomas Aquinas helps to clarify what it means to Love Your Neighbor in a way that is necessary for the salvation of your soul. Jesus Himself complimented him on the clarity of his theological writing: Once when St. Thomas Aquinas was celebrating Mass, the crucifix on the altar spoke to him, saying, “You have written well of me, Thomas. “
      In his book “On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life” Thomas distinguishes three essential levels of love of neighbor:

      Necessary love of neighbor
      The basic commandment is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” From these follows three points regarding the love of our neighbor we must have:
      First, it must be true love, that is, we must love our neighbors so as to will them good for their own sake, and not because they are pleasant or helpful to use.
      Secondly, we must love our neighbor with an ordered love. We must love the spiritual good of our neighbor more than his bodily good, and we must love his bodily good more than his external goods.
      Thirdly, we must love our neighbors with a holy love, inasmuch as we must love both ourselves and them as made in the likeness of God, as ordered to God, and as called to communion with him. Since what is ordered to God is called holy, loving our neighbor for God’s sake is a holy love.
      Fourthly, we must love our neighbor with an efficacious love, that is, a love that proves itself by deeds.

  • Patricia

    He also clarifies the degrees of love for those entering into religious life or otherwise ordering their life to the evangelical counsels. Perfect love of neighbor in these three ways are not obligatory, but are under evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
    Love of neighbor can be perfect 1. Love can be perfect with respect to its extensiveness, when we show love to all men, even when we are not strictly required to do so. Aquinas distinguishes three degrees of love with respect to extension: (1) those who are close to us; (2) men and women everywhere; (3) even to our enemies, to those who hurt us–even when we wouldn’t be obliged to show a particular love for them.
    2. Love of neighbor can be perfect with respect to its intensity. This perfection is shown by what a person is ready to give up for the sake of his neighbor. Thomas distinguishes three levels here, corresponding to the three evangelical counsels: (1) some give up possessions for the sake of their fellow men and women; (2) some expose their body labor and fatigue, or to persecution for the sake of others; (3) some lay down their life for others; the closest thing to this dying for others is giving up one’s own will for the sake of others
    3. Love of neighbor can be perfect with respect to its works. (1) Some procure the bodily good of others, by feeding, clothing, or healing them; (2) some procure the spiritual good of others, as by teaching, but such spiritual good as is on man’s own level; (3) some procure the spiritual good of others that is on a divine level–giving them the divine teaching, bestowing the sacraments, etc. This belongs above all to bishops.

  • Patricia

    St. Therese realized that she was young and could not to things like the “great saints” Yet she gained sainthood through her teaching of the “little way,” St. Therese of Lisieux actually rejoiced in her weakness, littleness, and that she must rely on God for everything. She discovered that divine love can be experienced and put into action as an act undertaken purely for the love of God – even picking up a pin – attributing it all to him with complete understanding of her nothingness and poverty of spirit. Her entire day was spent in making continuous acts of love for Jesus. She referred to this as scattering rose petals for Him alone.
    Through imitating St. Therese’s little way, , we can give glory to God in our actions, even while still here on earth. St. Therese lived the words of St. John of the Cross: “The smallest act of pure love is of greater value in the eyes of God, and more profitable to the Church, than the greatest works.”
    What does the smallest act with the most pure love” look like? A small act of kindness, refraining from an impatient word, or remaining silent when our natural disposition is to respond in anger- Just one little thing at a time done with the intention of doing it for the love of God.

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