Saturday, December 1, 2012

Charitable Works

St Gregory Nanzianzen
  Born in AD 329, St Gregory Nazianzen hailed from a village in Cappadocia, which is now in central Turkey, and was the son of the bishop of Nazianzus, also named Gregory. He studied in Athens with St Basil the Great and the man who would become Julian the Apostate. Gregory returned home to be ordained by his father. He had a stormy life, as he desired to become a monk, but Basil convinced him to continue serving with his father. Gregory's study of rhetoric was tremendously useful, as the diocese was plagued with theological differences, and Gregory worked to heal these with diplomacy and preaching. In time, he wrote against Julian the Apostate, who had launched a persecution, and when this was over, Gregory moved to fight Arianism, and in the realm of theology, he is most noted for his defense of the Trinity. In 378, Gregory moved to Constantinople, as the emperor Theodosius wished for the Arian heresy to be purged, and asked Gregory to become Archbishop of Constantinople. His reign was tumultuous, and after the Council of Constantinople, he withdrew to become bishop of Nanzianzus; from this see, he retired and died in 389. Gregory's feasts are on Jan. 2 in the West, and the 25th and 30th of the same month in the East. He is one of the Cappadocian Fathers, along with St Basil and his brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa. Here is a thought from him on charitable giving:
"Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could."-St Gregory Nazianzen
One of my favorite saints, St Martin, gave half of his cloak to a beggar, who then appeared to him as Christ,  which reflects what Christ says in Matthew:
 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
St Martin with the beggar
 In society today, helping the poor can be really, really hard. Around my parish, people harass the parishioners and the clergy, figuring that we have a lot of money. In New York, I felt terrible seeing the homeless people, but so many are on drugs and abuse alcohol. In both cases, who knows where the money will go?

Those problems notwithstanding, our society has forgotten the corporal works of mercy, and the underlying reasons for performing good works. (In my understanding, these would be to reflect the love of God, and because we love our neighbors, who are worthy of our love as children of God. Thus, our faith is demonstrated.) During this season of Advent, as we learn about his first Coming and prepare ourselves for his second Coming, let's remember the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, the hungry, and the dead.

Let us make our faith manifest by helping our brethren. Give thanks to God for He is good, and has blessed us. Share with those who are less fortunate, for they are children of God too, and helping them out is the way we can demonstrate God's love for them. But, don't limit it to Advent...make it a daily effort, to paraphrase the Boy Scout slogan.

This is one area of Catholic teaching I struggle with. We are called to give all of ourselves, yet we can't give everything away, because not everyone can be a beggar, especially those people who have families to support. The poor are out there, yet it doesn't seem the Church in the United States today helps them to alleviate their suffering in a very effective way (for the most part; the Schumann Center at St Martin of Tours Church is a notable exception). And if you are going to donate money to the poor, I would suggest giving to a religious order (one without any theological issues, mind you). I suggest the Missionaries of the Poor of Kingston, the Missionaries of Charity, the Order of Preachers, and the Franciscans.

This post was inspired by the NYPD cop who bought shoes for a man on the street..exactly what I'm talking about.

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