Charity and the Saints
As we approach All Saints Day, we are ideally situated to stop and think about the blessed in heaven. The liturgical year offers us this opportune occasion to contemplate their motives and the key traits of their character for the purpose of applying the lessons of their lives to our own walk of faith. To that end, let us examine what imbued the saints and that which serves as the primary sign of their holiness: charity.
Charity is the chief of all virtues, excelling even faith and hope, since it persists in the glorious light of the beatific vision and most directly reflects our participation in the life of God. This principal virtue is defined as 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). One can easily see the theocentric (God-centered) nature of this virtue given by Him through His grace. Of course, this love of God above all else for His own sake is closely aligned with hope: “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness” (CCC 1817). This love of God, love of neighbor, and desire for the kingdom are necessarily united in the life of one seeking holiness and eternal bliss.
An essential component of this virtuous life is living a life in conformity to the petitions of the Our Father. Let us concentrate upon one: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Quite simply, our Blessed Lord, in the prayer He taught us, teaches us to petition our Heavenly Father for the concrete realization of His will on earth. Such an endeavor seeks the fulfillment of an integral life without division and without compartmentalizing Christ.
Many of us have been tempted to live our lives as “Sunday-only” Catholics — living for Christ during Mass but largely forgetting Him elsewhere. This is a great temptation offered to us by the world, especially amidst lives of distraction and apathy. If we have fallen for this trap, how do we escape?
In short, if we love Christ, we will keep His commandments (cf. John 14:15). This applies, most especially, to the first and greatest commandment (cf. Matthew 22:37-38). What is required to keep the first commandment? Like all the commandments, the first commandment demands both those things which are required of us as well as those things we must avoid. So, in addition to the sins against charity that must be avoided such as indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness, acedia (spiritual sloth), and hatred of God (cf. CCC 2094), the first commandment also directs us to positively serve Him (and Him only) through adoration, prayer, sacrifice, keeping our baptismal promises, and maintaining our social duty of acknowledging Christ before men (cf. CCC 2095-2105). Regarding this social obligation, the Catechism says:
The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is ‘the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.’ By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them ‘to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live.’ (CCC 2105)
As the Church makes clear, this requires us to make known the one true religion of the Catholic faith to show forth “the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies” (CCC 2105). Such a task is not for the faint of heart. It is the job of saints. Do you want to be a saint? Then begin telling people about Jesus and His Kingdom. Viva Cristo Rey!