Cardinal Bacci on Charitable Works

Charitable Works

1. Christianity is the religion of love. This is not to say that charity is sufficient without justice, for there can be no real charity without justice. But justice cannot always bring us very far. There are many complex and tragic problems which justice alone is powerless to solve. Only Christian love can comfort the human heart and heal some of the deeper wounds of poor suffering humanity. There is a sense in which it is true to say that Christianity is charity. This is what Jesus meant when He said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Anyone who is without charity is not really a Christian. Egoism is the absolute negation of Christianity. The egoist is deaf to human sorrows and loves only himself. A Christian should love God above all things and his neighbour as himself.

2. When Jesus was asked what was the first commandment, He replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than this.” (Mark 12:30-31) As St. Augustine says, the love of God and the love of our neighbour are two branches of the same tree, the tree of charity. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother,” St. John warns us, “he is a liar.” (1 John 4:20) We must prove our love for God by showing charity towards our neighbour. All men are our brothers in Jesus Christ, Who has redeemed us by His precious blood. Our Lord has said that He will regard as done for Himself anything which we do for the least of our brethren. (Mt. 25:40) Like the Saints, we should see Jesus Himself living in the poor and suffering. The Saints gave Him everything they had, not only their possessions, but also their toil and love. Think how much those missionaries do who leave everything in order to go to foreign lands and win souls for Christ. Think of the charitable work of the sisters and nurses in the hospitals, asylums and orphanages. What are we doing ?

3. As well as the corporal works, there are the spiritual works of mercy. Everyone is not obliged to undertake the former; they would be impossible, for instance, for the destitute. But everyone is obliged to undertake the latter. Sometimes a kind word is more valuable than money. There are many ways in which we can carry out the spiritual works of mercy. There is the well-timed and understanding advice we can give to others; the visit to a sick man who is alone in his sufferings; the friendly and encouraging visit to an unfortunate prisoner; the tactful and patient instruction we can give to those who have gone astray through ignorance rather than through malice; and at times the rebuke we can administer to a hardened sinner in such a way as to make it quite clear that our only motive is to win him back to the real happiness which only goodness can give. Remember, however, that the practice of the spiritual works of mercy does not excuse us from the exercise of material works of charity whenever that is possible for us. (Cf. James 2:16)


Easy Essays of Peter Maurin

Peter Maurin’s Easy Essays speak volumes and are a good subject for meditation and will be a regular feature of the CVM blog. Here is a good one to start with.


Works of Mercy

In the first centuries of Christianity

pagans said about Christians:

“See how they love each other.”

The love for God and neighbour

was the characteristic

of the first Christians.

This love was expressed

through the daily practice

of the Works of Mercy.

To feed the hungry,

to clothe the naked,

to shelter the homeless,

to instruct the ignorant

at a personal sacrifice

was considered

by the first Christians

as the right thing to do.

Surplus goods were considered

to be superfluous,

and therefore to be used

to help the needy members

of the Mystical Body.

Works of Mercy

As we celebrate the Septuagesima Sunday our thoughts inevitably turn to the penitential season. What better time therefore to remind ourselves of the Works of Mercy –

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

We should think and pray hard about which of these we can do, most especially during Lent.


The St Anthony Test


Given that our soup run was the day after St Anthony’s feast day (13th June), I expected his intercessory marvels, being one of our heavenly patrons.
But I did not anticipate the degree he would answer our monthly prayer of finding our homeless friends and guests.
This proclaimed “Wonder Worker” more than doubled the number of persons we would normally help! Deo Gratias!

While we marveled at how the afternoon unfolded, meeting guests within a few minutes of leaving the car, we also found our resources and energy taxed heavily, leaving Winchester well after 7pm with a near empty car, which arrived full of fresh food, drink, and plenty of handouts of canned food, pasta/noodle packs, toiletries, clothing, etc.

So why is a 13th century Portuguese saint so important to our work?

  1. St Anthony is one of the most prominent advocates of the poor and needy.
  2. He delights in helping with the most mundane things. As a result he is most helpful in our day to day worldly affairs. He is well-known for finding lost things, but his power extends to every countless need, from the postal miracle from which we have the devotion of marking envelopes with “SAG” (St Anthony Guide) or in Latin “RSA”  (Reservet Sanctus Anthonius), to the opening of a locked door which soon spread into the devotion termed St Anthony’s bread, and the brief for those tempted to suicide (I will detail these devotions in a later post). I can personally vouch that his intercessory powers can spare one a fixed penalty notice!
  3. St Anthony loves a challenge. Though it is laudable to just put money into a St Anthony’s bread box, the saint prefers you to hang onto your cash and test him. By presenting your most difficult problems to him in the form of a written note inserted in the box, and a promise to pay up when it’s granted, you give the thaumaturgus (wonder worker) a chance to prove his worth and glorify God.
  4. St Anthony invokes action and generosity. Often St Anthony’s intercession is not secured without first some commitment on our behalf. God wishes us to ask audaciously, but also to give audaciously. The blackening or blurring of the mobile camera’s lens (maybe with his friar’s garb) would not have been procured (I believe) without me first offering a suitable financial sum for his beloved poor.

Dear reader, I challenge you all to try the St Anthony test. Throw your worst at him. You will not be disappointed. And if he doesn’t deliver, it wouldn’t have cost you a penny.

St Anthony's Bread