Last year, during Lent, a friend and I decided that instead of giving UP something we would DO something. Because my friend had had a trying experience on the road that morning, we pledged to try to be less aggressive and more polite when we were driving our cars.
As I went through the six weeks of Lent, I stopped more often to let cars onto the road, slowed down to allow others to merge into traffic ahead of me, and actually applied the brakes at yellow lights instead of speeding my way through. Though through this experience I had expected to be “nicer” to others, what I didn’t expect was that this behavior didn’t slow down my travel time in the slightest bit and it helped me to feel more relaxed behind the wheel. As it turned out, this Lenten journey unexpectedly transformed my driving experience. It made driving more enjoyable, which in turn helped me change my Lenten pledge into a new driving habit.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Great, but what does this have to do with the title of this blog: Charity?” Well, lately, I have been reflecting on the virtue of “Charity.” Charity, along with Faith and Hope, is one of the three theological virtues of our Catholic faith. We pray for them as we say the first three Hail Mary’s each time we pray the rosary. Though these virtues may sound simple enough, they are actually quite complex in their meaning and in the ideals that are associated with them, especially “Charity.”
Though the word “Charity” conjures up ideas of giving money to others or helping the needy, the word “Charity” is actually associated with love. In fact, because of this, many people when they pray these days substitute the word “Charity” with the word “Love.” Though love has a lot to do with charity; charity is more. That’s the beauty of our Catholic faith. We have this word “Charity” which embodies love and more.
What do I mean by this? Well, loving those who love us helps us to understand the concept of love and what it entails; but, Jesus has asked us to love more. He wants us to love those we do not even know and to love others even when it is hard to love them because of the way they are behaving towards us and others. This kind of love takes effort. In order to love in this way, we must be charitable. We must give of ourselves even when we don’t feel loving towards the other person. Putting this kind of love – charitable love – into practice is far more challenging than loving friends and family.
So how do we embrace this virtue of “Charity” and learn to love more? It requires focus and restraint. We must think first and then respond appropriately in every interaction we have with others throughout our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, changing my driving habits and practices required me to focus more on others who were also on the road, take a brief moment to assess the situation, and then act in safe and appropriate manner – in effect – to be charitable.
Though staying calm in traffic can help you to be more charitable, this is only one small way among the infinite possibilities. Forgiving others who have wronged us and doing things for others without expecting anything in return are other ways of being charitable. Most importantly, though, charitable love is looking beyond ourselves and putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs.
The next time you pray the rosary, take a moment to reflect on the beautiful virtue of Charity. In what ways, big or small, can you embrace this virtue and make it more present in your life?
Deb Egan grew up in a Catholic family. Throughout her adult life, she has participated as a church volunteer in many capacities, including teaching Religious Education, being a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, Ministering to the elderly and homebound, and Facilitating Small Faith Groups. She has been trained by Evangelical Catholic and became a member of the Build the Faith Team in April of 2017.