Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Humility and Charity

"It is not enough to give soup and bread; this the rich can do. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread that you give them."
—St. Vincent De Paul

I have too much. Too much access to info, too much to do, too much choice about the course of my days and too much stuff.
I have to wonder why I have so much while so many people lack what they need to survive?

Vincent De Paul was big on charity and humility, which makes sense because without humility, without really accepting oneself as a creation of God, dependent on God for all, its just too easy to get caught in the trap of thinking I am the center of the universe and I am responsible for all the good things I have and all the good gifts with which I've been blessed.
It's too easy to have an attitude of - I am better than the next one because I have ... fill in the blank ______ health, friends, brains, virtue, energy, education, money, good looks, access to power and choice and so on... With such an attitude it's impossible to act with charity.

Of course all these things could be taken away in an instant! When that happens and I believe it does happen in some way to each person, I hope to have the grace of forgiveness for those who will give to me.

In thinking about Vincent De Paul and these two favorite virtues of his. Three people in my life came to mind, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, Dona Juana Rivera and Sr. Cass Kohler. These three people are, I'm sure, in heaven. They vary greatly in their talents, backgrounds and gifts but are alike in possessing great charity and humility.
Dona (the n ought to have a squiggling line above it) had little education, was very poor and had nine children and many grandchildren. She gave away freely what she had, shared her project apartment with strangers in need and was friends with an amazing variety of people.
Sr. Cass Kohler was a down to earth person. She admitted she wasn't the brightest person as she struggled to get through nursing school, but her sense of humor and her awareness of others needs should have been noted summa cum laude. It was a joy to live with her. Her death at 41 due to breast cancer was a great loss to many.

Fr. Vincent was 90 when he died in 2006. Revered by many, well educated in the classics, he taught Greek and Latin to seminarians, was Novice Director for many years and held high positions in his community, yet he seemed equally at doing home repair projects at our camp like retreat center in CT. Fr. Vincent had many gifts but he had a special gift for relationships. He was warm and accepting of people, yet you always wanted to be and do your best around Fr. Vincent.
Three people of humility and charity! May their example and their prayers help us to be like them in the practice of these virtues.

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