Friday, November 25, 2011

My Take on the News: Charity is a Virtue

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in America, a time for visiting relatives. And, traditionally, to be thankful for an adequate harvest. I could have picked something in the news about turkeys or travel, or tradition, but thought this was a better choice:
  1. Charity: It's the Right Thing to Do

Charity? Yes, It's Important

"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822)
There's quite a bit more to say about charity: Catechism 1823-1829, for starters. Theological virtues "relate directly to God," and there's more about that, too. (Catechism, 1812-1813)

I suppose someone could get crazy about practicing charity. There's the joke about the overly-enthusiastic philanthropist: you could tell who he was helping, by the hunted look in their eyes.

But I don't think most of us have to worry about carrying 'charity' to crazy extremes.

One more thing about charity: of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), charity is the greatest. That's not just my opinion. Check it out: 1 Corinthians 13:1-4, 13; Catechism, 1826.

1. Charity: It's the Right Thing to Do

On average, Americans are better off than folks living in places like Somalia or Bangladesh. But the average American's $47,200 purchasing power in 2010 is just that: an average. Some folks could buy more stuff: some, not so much.

My household is on the low side of that number, by the way: but I'd still rather live in America, than elsewhere.

The point is that quite a few Americans can afford to help others, some Americans could use help, and so could folks around the world:
"As holidays approach, Catholic aid agencies encourage generosity"
Kevin J. Jones, CNA/EWTN News (November 21, 2011)

"Officials with Catholic charities and relief agencies have asked people to remember both the needs of the poor at home and those facing humanitarian disasters overseas.

"Generosity is 'so central to our faith,' said Tom Price, the senior communications manager with Catholic Relief Services. 'It is the reason for the existence of any Christian charity.'

"He cited Pope Benedict XVI's words in his 2005 encyclical 'Deus Caritas Est.' There, the Pope said that for the Catholic Church, charity is not 'a kind of welfare activity' that could be left to others. Rather, charity is 'a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.'

"Candy Hill, Catholic Charities USA senior vice president of social policy and government relations, also noted the importance of giving.

" 'Our Catholic values, teachings, and traditions are the foundation for the work we do at CCUSA. The ultimate rationale for our services is our belief in the sanctity of the human person and the dignity of human life.'

"Price, whose agency is dedicated to international relief work, told CNA that the ongoing drought and famine in East Africa is an 'urgent situation' and those affected in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in need of prayers.

"Hill, whose organization focuses on domestic aid, said that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty...."
Most years, I've been on the giving end of charity: which I think is a blessing. Some years, I've been on the receiving end of charity: which I think is also a blessing.

I'd better explain that last sentence. I've gotten help from folks who didn't have to lend a hand: I'm grateful for their help. I'm also glad to have been in need, so someone else could practice charity.

On the whole, though, I'd rather be on the 'giving,' than the 'receiving' end: and that's getting into more topics.

No Pressure, Just a Suggestion

No pressure, but if you're in a position to do so: it wouldn't hurt to think about helping others. The outfits mentioned in that CNA/EWTN News article are online:
Again, no pressure.

'... the Hunted Look in Their Eyes'

"Charity" is a virtue. That doesn't mean it's necessarily fashionable.

There's an uncomfortable reality behind jokes like " could tell who he was helping, by the hunted look in their eyes." I think that some 'charity' is misguided. But - and this is a very important point - charity is still a good idea. We just need to be sane about it:
"...In recent years, charity has often been perceived negatively. Those who undertake charitable activities are seen as well-meaning 'do-gooders' who actually foster dependency. Those who receive charity are treated in a demeaning manner. Even the word 'charity' has been transformed by some into a derogatory term. We reject this characterization. In fact, Pope John Paul II cautioned us against a rejection of charity because of a 'distorted' notion of justice: 'The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough . . . if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions.'..."
("In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium," Catholic Campaign for Human Development, USCCB)
Here's a longer quote from what Pope John Paul II said:
"...Not in vain did Christ challenge His listeners, faithful to the doctrine of the Old Testament, for their attitude which was manifested in the words: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."111 This was the form of distortion of justice at that time; and today's forms continue to be modeled on it. It is obvious, in fact, that in the name of an alleged justice (for example, historical justice or class justice) the neighbor is sometimes destroyed, killed, deprived of liberty or stripped of fundamental human rights. The experience of the past and of our own time demonstrates that justice alone is not enough, that it can even lead to the negation and destruction of itself, if that deeper power, which is love, is not allowed to shape human life in its various dimensions...."
(Dives in misericordia," Pope John Paul II (November 30, 1980))
And, as usual: there's a lot more about charity. But I have to stop somewhere.

Vaguely-related posts:
  • "Deus Caritas Est - Encyclical Letter, Benedict XVI"
    Pope Benedict XVI (December 25, 2005)
  • "Dives in misericordia"
    Pope John Paul II (November 30, 1980)
  • Catholic Campaign for Human Development
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
  • The human virtues
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804-1811)
    • The cardinal virtues
      (Catechism, 1805)
      • Prudence
        (Catechism, 1806)
      • Justice
        (Catechism, 1807)
      • Fortitude
        (Catechism, 1808)
      • Temperance
        (Catechism, 1809)
    • How we get the human virtues, what they do
      (Catechism, 1810)
    • Practicing the human virtues isn't easy
      (Catechism, 1811)
  • The theological virtues
    Catechism, 1812-1829
    • As a group are
      • Where human virtues are rooted
      • The foundation of Christian moral activity
        (Catechism, 1812-1813)
    • Faith
      (Catechism, 1814-1816)
    • Hope
      (Catechism, 1818-1821<)
    • Charity
      • Is how we love
        (Catechism, 1822)
        • God above all things for his own sake
          • Our neighbor as ourselves
            • for the love of God
      • Is the 'new commandment'
        (Catechism, 1823)
        • As Jesus said
          • "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love."
            (John 15:9)
          • "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
            (John 15:12)
      • "Keeps the commandments of God and his Christ"
        (Catechism, 1824)
        • "If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love."
          (John 15:10)
        • Is the "Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law"
      • Jesus died for us
        (Catechism, 1825)
        • While we were still enemies
        • The Lord asks us to
          • Love as he does
            • Even our enemies
          • See everybody as our neighbor
          • Love children
            • As Jesus does
          • Love the poor
            • As Jesus does
          • Described by Paul
            (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
            ["Love" apparently being the practical effect of Charity (B.G.)]
      • Is the greatest theological virtue
        (1 Corinthians 13:1-4, 13; Catechism, 1826)
        [In NAB, "Love:" which seems to be a practical expression of Charity (B.G.)]
      • Animates and inspires all the virtues
        (Catechism, 1827)
        • Binds the virtues together
          (Collossians 3:14)
        • Is the source and goal of the virtues' practice
        • "upholds and purifies our human ability to love"
        • Raises our human ability to love "to the supernatural perfection of divine love"
      • Charity's demands, effects, and nature
        (Catechism, 1829)
          • Joy
          • Peace
          • Mercy
        • Demands
          • Beneficence
          • Fraternal correction
        • Fosters reciprocity
        • Remains
          • Disinterested and generous
        • Is
          • Friendship
          • Communion
    (Outline of the human and theological virtues adapted and condensed from Background (October 5, 2011))

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.