‘Not to have charity is not to know your Catholic religion’

The beauty of my job is that I get to spend my day hunting down Catholic stories. What I stumble upon is not always pleasant, but I am always surprised and gratified at how much good can be found.  

I stumbled across one such column recently, written by a priest who is executive editor of a diocesan newspaper in Massachusetts. When I emailed it to a colleague here at OSV, he wrote back, “Excellent! And scalding, at least to my conscience.”  

Mine, too. The point of the column was to drive home how absolutely essential charity and its practice are to the Catholic faith.  

He quotes the Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney:  

“The obligation we have to love our neighbor is so important that Jesus Christ put it into a commandment that he placed immediately after that by which he commands us to love him with all our hearts.  

“Yes, my dear brethren,” St. John Vianney continues, “we must regard this obligation as the most universal, the most necessary and the most essential to religion and to our salvation. In fulfilling this Commandment, we are fulfilling all the others.”  

What are the stakes? Enormous. Without practicing charity, there’s no salvation and no share in divine life.  

Again St. John Vianney: “Not to have charity is not to know your religion. It is to have a religion of whim, mood and inclination. … Without charity, you will never see God. You will never go to heaven!”  

Tough words. But somehow, it is so easy to make excuses — and St. John Vianney was hearing the same excuses from his parishioners in 19th-century rural France as we’re inclined to make today.  

Excuse: “The poor are lazy parasites and should get a job.” St. John Vianney pointed out that if there were no one poorer than us, we’d never learn how to give. The poor we encounter are God’s instrument in making us good.  

Excuse: “I just cannot afford to give (much) to charity.” For some of us, that is true. But St. John Vianney noted that many who make the excuse don’t seem to have problems continuing to acquire assets — back then, another field; today, hi-def televisions and new cars.  

“Your well-being is nothing other than a depository that God has put in your hands; after taking what is necessary for you and your family, the rest is owed to the poor,” he taught.  

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A few weeks ago, I asked readers to send us good Catholic news you stumble across in your lives — an antidote to all of the bad, disheartening and scandalous news we seem to be laboring under again. We need to be edified and inspired. And you responded generously. Starting next week, we’ll be unveiling a new monthly feature reporting reader-submitted good news. Keep the stories coming. We all need to hear them.  

As always, I look forward to hearing from you at feedback@osv.com.