Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 2:30 pm
Practice of Charity towards our Neighbour - St. Alphonsus
The Practice of Charity towards our Neighbour
(reputed to be by St Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)
He who loves God, loves his neighbour also; but he who loves not his neighbour, neither does he love God; for the divine precept says, "That he who loveth God, loves also his brother." (John, iv.) We must also love our neighbour in heart as well as in deed. And how much are we to love him? Here is the rule: "Love the Lord thy God with thy whole soul, . . . And thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke, x.27) We must, then, love God above all things, and more than ourselves; and our neighbour as ourselves. So that, as we desire our own good, and take delight in it when we have it, and, on the contrary, are sorry for any evil that may happen to us, so also we must desire our neighbour's good, and rejoice when he obtains it; and, on the other hand, we must be sorry for his misfortunes. So, again, we must neither judge nor suspect evil of our neighbour, without good grounds. And this is what constitutes interior charity.
External charity consists in our words and actions towards our neighbour. As to words, first we must abstain from the least shadow of detraction. A detractor is hateful to God and man. On the contrary, he who speaks well of everyone is beloved by God and men; and when the fault cannot be excused, we must at least excuse the intention.
Secondly, let us be careful not to repeat to any one the evil that has been said of him by another; because sometimes long enmities and revenge arise from such things. The Scripture says, he who sows discord is hated by God. Thirdly, we must take care not to wound our neighbour, by saying anything that may hurt him; even were it only in jest. Would you like to be laughed at in the same way as you laugh at your neighbour? Fourthly, let us avoid disputes; sometimes on account of a mere trifle quarrels are begun, which end in abuse and rancour. We have also to guard against the spirit of contradiction, which some indulge when they gratuitously set themselves to contradict everything. On such occasions give your opinion, and then be quiet.
Fifthly, let us speak gently to all, even to our inferiors; therefore let us not make use of imprecations or abuse. And when our neighbour is angry with us, and is somewhat abusive, let us answer meekly, and the quarrel will be at an end: "A mild answer breaketh wrath." (Prov. xv). And when we are annoyed by our neighbour, we must be careful not to say anything; because our passion will then make us go too far; it will make us exaggerate; but afterwards we shall certainly be sorry for it. St. Francis de Sales says, "I was never angry in my life, that I did not repent of it shortly afterwards." The rule is to be silent as long as we feel ourselves disturbed. And when our neighbour continues to be irritated, let us reserve the correction till another time, even though it should be necessary; because for the moment our words would not convince, and would do no good.
With regard also to the charity of our actions towards our neighbour: first, it is practiced by aiding him as we best may. Let us remember what the Scripture says: "For alms deliver from all sin and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness." (Tob. iv. II). Almsgiving, then, saves us from sin and from hell. By alms is understood any assistance which it is in our power to render to our neighbour. The kind of almsgiving which is the most meritorious is to help the soul of our neighbour, by correcting him gently and opportunely, whenever we can. And let not us say with some, "What doth it signify to me?" It does signify to one who is a Christian. He who loves God, wishes to see him loved by all.
Secondly, we must show charity towards the sick, who are in greater need of help. Let us make them some little present, if they are poor. At least let us go and wait on them and comfort them, even though they should not thank us for doing so; the Lord will reward us.
Thirdly, we must above all show charity to our enemies. Some are all kindness with their friends; but Jesus Christ says, "Do good to those that hate you." (Matt. v. 44) By this you may know that a man is a true Christian, if he seeks to do good to those who wish him evil. And if we can do nothing else for those who persecute us, let us at least pray that God will prosper them, according as Jesus commands us: "Pray for them that persecute you." (Matt, v. 44) This is the way the saints revenged themselves. He who pardons anyone who has offended him, is sure of being pardoned by God; since God has given us the promise: "Forgive, and you shall be forgiven." (Luke, vi. 37) Our Lord said one day to the Blessed Angela of Foligno, that the surest sign of a soul being loved by God, is when it loves a person who has offended it.
Fourthly, let us also be charitable to our neighbours who are dead, that is, to the holy souls in purgatory. St. Thomas says, that if we are bound to help our neighbours who are alive, we are also bound to remember them when dead. Those holy prisoners are suffering pains which exceed all the sufferings of this life; and nevertheless are in the greatest necessity, since they cannot possibly help themselves. A Cistercian monk once said to the sacristan of his monastery: "Help me, brother, by your prayers, when I can no longer help myself." Let us then endeavour to succour these holy souls either by having Masses said for them, or by hearing Masses for them, by giving alms, or at least by praying and applying indulgences in their behalf; they will show themselves grateful by obtaining great graces for us, not only when they reach heaven, if they arrive there sooner through our prayers, but also in purgatory.
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:31 am
Location: Moscow, Idaho, U.S.A.
Re: The souls in Purgatory
That last paragraph of the quotation from St. Alphonsus should be required reading by all Catholics.
To that end, there has recently been a book published and which is now being sold by TAN Books and Publishers entitled, "Hungry Souls", which, to my mind, is particularly useful today.
Although it was written by a German professor of parapsychology who is at least nominally a Catholic, it contains some very, very interesting true accounts of the living, mostly Catholics, and their experiences with the Holy Souls.
One incident in particular I found extremely interesting: this was the case of a Lutheran Protestant minister in Germany who was accosted by those he at first characterized as "demons". His thoughts on these changed drastically over the extended period that they "bothered" him. What he found extremely upsetting was that they all asked for his prayers (!), and expressed great relief when he finally agreed to offer some prayers for them. He did not understand this at all.
Kenneth G. Gordon