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Monday, 7 May 2012

Ministries in the Church are not just vocations, are not careers, but movements of love. No one should be out there doing activities for their own aggrandizement. Part 7 on Deus Caritas Est

The encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, moves one's thoughts from eros, to agape, to caritas. Now before I continue, I would like to emphasize that all of this movement is one of the heart. The conversion of a heart to Christ changes a life, to a life of love and service. Now, the parish life of caritas breaks down when a person, or a people do not convert. If a person or a people refuse to accept grace, the grace of repentance, then there can be no renewal of a parish. No amount of programs can renew a parish, unless these programs hit the heart with the Truth and Love of Christ. Unless the heart and mind are moved, either by eros, or through eros to agape, caritas will not happen. St. Bernard of Clairvaux created a movement of love outside himself, because he was in love with Christ. So too were St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila. St. Maximilian Kolbe and many, many other witnesses to the Faith.

Many people are closed to repentance, especially if they are contracepting or in marriages which need to be sanitized, excommunicated because of abortion, or in other stages of death. Without a personal prayer life, a personal openness to love, there is no renewal of a community.

Back to the encyclical: here is a radical reminder of the real Gospel message. 

Interior openness to the Catholic dimension of the Church cannot fail to dispose charity workers to work in harmony with other organizations in serving various forms of need, but in a way that respects what is distinctive about the service which Christ requested of his disciples. Saint Paul, in his hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13), teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (v. 3). This hymn must be the Magna Carta of all ecclesial service; it sums up all the reflections on love which I have offered throughout this Encyclical Letter. Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.

Looking carefully at this section, one sees the call to get involved which each other on the personal level. I have highlighted the section which is important to our understanding of real love.

So, doing good deeds is not enough, as St. Paul says. Activity can be totally selfish, totally egotistical, totally unlovable. Without virtues, love is sterile.

Now, eros, which is the basic love of marriage, and the love of the mystics towards Christ, is the first step of the ladder of perfection. But, one moves, in maturity, to agape, the selfless serving in a family, to a partner, and to a community. This movement has to happen, or one is not making the journey to perfection.

Caritas, the activity of love, follows naturally, so that we no longer merely feel and rest in love, but act, in real, concrete ways. Without this concrete exhibition of love, we shall not gain heaven.

Harsh words, but Christ had harder words. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. Revelations 3:16

The great spiritual writers tell us that we actually cannot work in charity without the burning heart of love. Without love, there is no activity which, in the old words of the Church, gains merit.

Back to the encyclical: 35. This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world—the Cross—and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: “We are useless servants” (Lk 17:10). We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).

Ministries in the Church are not just vocations, are not careers, but movements of love. No one should be out there doing activities for their own aggrandizement. 

One does not work in pro-life because of politics, but uses politics if necessary, and that is necessary. But, all is done through love.

36. When we consider the immensity of others' needs, we can, on the one hand, be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God's governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving every problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive if we are to keep on the right path, without falling into an arrogant contempt for man, something not only unconstructive but actually destructive, or surrendering to a resignation which would prevent us from being guided by love in the service of others. Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbour but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: “We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer”.

All the boldface type is my emphasis. Now, look at this section above. No prayer, no love, no action in Christ. Prayer gives us the Heart of God and takes away our cold, small, shriveled hearts

37. It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God's plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?

I repeat: Prayer gives us the Heart of God and takes away our cold, small, shriveled hearts. And the Pope warns us of communism and socialism in the highlighted section above. Are Catholics paying attention to this warning? Fanaticism and terrorism--socialism and communism, even Islam, which is a highly materialistic creed.

May I add my favorite saint, St. Bernard of Clairvaux's words on this journey to caritas: thanks to this link

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Four Degress of Love…
since we are carnal and are born of the lust of the flesh, it must be that our desire and our love shall have its beginning in the flesh. But rightly guided by the grace of God through these degrees, it will have its consummation in the spirit: for that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual (I Cor. 15.46).
 1.      At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself.
2.      Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. When he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God’s Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know what God is, and finds Him altogether lovely.
3.      So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Ps. 34.8), he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God.
4.      The fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God’s sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I confess it seems beyond my powers…For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God’s. Joined unto the Lord, he will then be one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6.17).”
Can one begin to see why socialists and communists hate real marriage, the unit of family, the domestic Church which leads to the greater loves between God and humans? Can one begin to understand why homage to the State destroys love and therefore, the work of the Church on earth?

To be continued.....