When you find it difficult to do a favour or a service for someone, remember that he or she is a child of God, and that the Lord has asked us to love one another.
—And I’d say more: go deeper into that evangelical precept every day; do not remain on the surface. Draw the right conclusions from it — it is quite easy to do so. Then adapt your behaviour, on every occasion, to those requirements.
“There is so much hurry in the way we live that Christian charity has become a rare phenomenon in this world of ours, even though, at least nominally, Christ is being preached.”
—I grant you that. But what are you doing about it as a Catholic, you who have to become united to him, and follow in his footsteps? Because he has told us that we must go and teach his doctrine to all peoples — all peoples — throughout the ages.
Men — this has always happened in history — bind their lives together to accomplish a collective mission and destiny.
—Is the unique destiny of eternal happiness worth less to the men and women of today?
You understood the meaning of friendship when you began to feel that you were like the shepherd of a little flock which you had left abandoned, but were now trying to gather together again, taking it upon yourself to serve each one of them.
You cannot just be passive. You have to become a real friend of your friends — by helping them. First, with the example of your behaviour and then with your advice and with the influence that a close friendship provides.
The spirit of fraternity and companionship you discovered unexpectedly filled you with enthusiasm. —That is natural, for it was something you had dreamed about longingly but had never experienced. You had not experienced it because men forget they are brothers of Christ, that lovable Brother of ours, who gave his life for us, for every single one of us, without reserve.
You have had the good fortune to find real teachers, authentic friends, who have taught you everything you wanted to know without holding back. You have had no need to employ any tricks to steal their knowledge, because they led you along the easiest path, even though it had cost them a lot of hard work and suffering to discover it… Now, it is your turn to do the same, with one person, and another — with everyone!
Meditate on this carefully and act accordingly: people who think you are unpleasant will stop thinking that when they realise that you really love them. It is up to you.
It’s not enough to be good; you need to show it. What would you say of a rose bush which produced only thorns?
To be warmed up, the tepid need to be surrounded by the fire of enthusiasm.
Many could cry out: “There is no point in your lamenting my situation! Teach me how to get out of this condition which saddens you so much!”
Your duty to be a brother to all souls will lead you to practise the “apostolate of little things”, without others noticing it. You will want to serve them so that their way becomes agreeable.
Those who zealously keep a “list of grudges” show themselves to be very narrow-minded souls! Such poor wretches are impossible to live with.
True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. Omnia suffert — it endures all things.
You fulfil a demanding plan of life: you rise early, you pray, you frequent the sacraments, you work or study a lot, you are sober and mortified… but you are aware that something is missing!
Consider this in your conversation with God: since holiness, or the struggle to achieve it, is the fullness of charity, you must look again at your love of God and your love of others for his sake. Then you may discover, hidden in your soul, great defects that you have not even been fighting against: your not being a good son, a good brother, a good companion, a good friend, a good colleague. And that, since you love “your holiness” in a disordered manner, you are envious.
You “sacrifice” yourself in many small personal details, and so you are attached to yourself, to your own person. Deep down you do not live for God or for others, but only for yourself.
You consider yourself a friend because you say nothing bad. —That is true, but I see in you no sign of giving good example or service.
—This kind make the worst friends.
For a start, you treat people badly. Then, before anybody has time to react, you say: “Now, we must all be charitable!”
—If you began with the second point you would never come to the first.
Don’t be someone who sows discord, like the person whose own mother would say of him: “Introduce him to your friends, and he will make sure those friends quarrel with you.”
I can see no Christian fraternity in a friend who warns you: “I’ve been told some terrible things about you. You shouldn’t trust someone among those close to you.”
I think it is not Christian because that “brother” has not had the noble reaction of silencing the slanderer first, and then telling you his name out of loyalty.
If that “brother” does not have the strength of character to demand such behaviour of himself, he will be risking your being left on your own, driving you to distrust everyone and to be uncharitable towards everyone.
You don’t have an ounce of supernatural vision and it is only their social standing that you notice. Souls mean nothing to you at all, nor do you serve them. That is why you are not generous… but live far from God with your false piety, even though you may pray a lot.
The Master has said very clearly: “Depart from me . . . into that eternal fire . . . for I was hungry . . . I was thirsty . . . I was in prison . . . and you did not care for me.”
It is impossible to love God with perfection, and at the same time to let yourself be ruled by selfishness —or by apathy— in your dealings with your neighbour.
True friendship also means making a heartfelt effort to understand the convictions of our friends, even though we may never come to share them or accept them.
Never allow weeds to grow on the path of friendship. Be loyal.
Let us make a firm resolution about our friendships. In my thoughts, words and deeds towards my neighbour, whoever he may be, may I not behave as I have done up to now. That is to say, may I never cease to practise charity, or allow indifference to enter my soul.
Your charity must be adapted and tailored to the needs of others… not to yours.
Children of God! A condition which transforms us into something that goes far beyond our being people who merely put up with each other. Listen to what the Lord says: Vos autem dixi amicos! We are his friends who, like him, give our lives for each other, when heroism is needed and throughout our ordinary lives.
How do we suppose that people who do not have our faith can come to the Holy Church if they see the unhandsome way in which those who call themselves followers of Christ treat each other?
Your agreeable behaviour should become more attractive by improving in kind and intensity. Otherwise, your apostolate will die out in lifeless and inward-looking circles.
Through your friendship and doctrine — or rather, through charity and the message of Christ — you will move many non-Catholics to help in earnest and to do good to all men.
Take note of the words of that working man who commented so enthusiastically after he had attended a gathering you had organised: “I had never heard people speak as they do here, about being noble, honest, kind and generous…” And he concluded in amazement: “Compared to the materialism of the Left or the Right, this is the true revolution.”
—Any soul can understand the fraternity Christ has established. Let us make a point of not adulterating that doctrine.
Sometimes you try to excuse yourself, saying that you are distracted or absent-minded, or that it is your character to be dry and reserved. That, you add, is why you don’t even know very well the people you live with.
—Listen, isn’t it true that this excuse doesn’t really satisfy you?
I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day.
Practising charity means respecting other people’s way of thinking. It means rejoicing at their road to God, without trying to make them think like you or joining you.
It occurred to me to put this consideration to you. These other ways are different, but parallel; each person will reach God by following his own way. Don’t get sidetracked in comparisons, or in wanting to know who is higher. That does not matter; what does matter is that we should all attain the end.
You say that he is full of defects! Very well… but, apart from the fact that people who are perfect are found only in Heaven, you too have defects, yet others put up with you and, what is more, appreciate you. That is because they love you with the love Jesus Christ had for his own, and they had a fair number of shortcomings.
—Learn from this!
You complain that he shows you no understanding. I am certain he does as much as he can to try to understand you. But what about you? When will you make a bit of an effort to understand him?
All right, I agree! That person has behaved badly; his behaviour has been reprehensible and unworthy; he shows no merit at all.
—Humanly speaking he deserves to be utterly despised, you added.
—I understand what you mean, I can assure you, but I do not share this concluding view of yours. That life which seems so mean is sacred. Christ has died to save it. If He did not despise it, how can you dare to?
If your friendship is brought down to such a level that you become an accomplice in the wretched behaviour of others, it will have been reduced to a sad confederacy which deserves no esteem whatsoever.
It is true that life, which by its nature is already rather narrow and uncertain, sometimes becomes difficult. —But that will help you to become more supernatural and to see the hand of God. Then you will be more human and understanding with those around you.
Forbearance is proportional to authority. A simple judge has to condemn — even if he takes into account extenuating circumstances — the convicted criminal who has admitted being guilty. The sovereign power of the country may sometimes grant a pardon or amnesty. God always forgives a contrite soul.
“Through you I have seen God, who has forgotten my follies and my offences, and has welcomed me with the affection of a Father.” This is what a contrite prodigal son of the twentieth century wrote to his family when he returned to his father’s house.
It has cost you a lot to begin getting rid of those niggling worries and forgetting about those personal things you were looking forward to. They may have been few and not very splendid, but they were deeply rooted. —In exchange, you are sure now that you are interested and concerned about your brothers, and only about them, for you have learned to discover Jesus Christ in your neighbour.
“A hundredfold!” How you remembered a few days ago that promise of the Lord!
—In the fraternity that is lived among your companions in the apostolate, I assure you, you will find that hundredfold.
How many fears and dangers can be allayed by the true love among brothers, which is not mentioned, for then it would seem to be profaned, but which shines in every little detail.
Have recourse to the Blessed Virgin every day with complete confidence. Your soul and your life will feel comforted at once. —She will let you partake of the treasures she keeps in her heart, for “never has it been known that anyone who sought her protection was left unaided.”