Charity begins at home
Love is patient, love is kind;
Love is not jealous or boastful;
It is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way,
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things.
—1 Cor 13:4-7
Patience, endurance, forgiveness and putting the other person’s needs ahead or oneself – is that not love? A love to be nurtured, carefully tended and to age with grace.
St. Paul was not just writing this letter for friends getting married, although one does like to think of love in this context when starting out as husband and wife.
St. Paul is speaking of divine love, the giving of charity of oneself through our actions. As parents and a community of Christ, are we capable of sharing the kind of love that St. Paul defines? A divine, charitable love is what we can strive for, the kind of love that God shares with us through the life of Jesus.
As a husband and wife, as a family, as a community in Christ our actions and service enable us to put this kind of love in place. The dignity of the human person, working for the common good, working toward solidarity can be found in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
How can we foster divine love in our children with Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?
Some Corporal Works can include:
+Give food to the hungry: Set the table at home, help Mom or Dad cook dinner, feed the pets without being asked, decide to have one less Christmas gift and take that money to the food shelter.
+Shelter the homeless: let a younger brother or sister play in your room or build a fort together. Learn more about the homeless shelters in your area and find out how you can donate.
+Comfort the sick: help care for others in the house by reading a story or writing a get-well card. Call a friend or family member you have not seen in a while.
Here are some Spiritual Works of Mercy:
+Convert the sinner: Pray for someone who has made a bad choice; if someone is being harmed, speak to an adult you trust.
+Instruct the ignorant: Join one of the faith formation programs at your parish, consult the Diocese of Burlington’s event calendar to see what other parishes are offering, join one of the Parent Café’s offered through the Diocese, watch a Formed.org video. Explore the lives of saints and discover how their life is similar or different to your own, discuss this as a family. Read the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12) and explore how each of you can work on one together.
+Bear wrongs patiently/forgive injuries: Take a big breath and count to 10 before responding to annoying comments, forgive mistakes with the words “I forgive you for…” and let them know how you were feeling.
+Comfort the sorrowful: Comfort a sibling when she is sad, eat meals together and talk about the hardest parts of your day as well as the best part of your day – spend time and listen.
Pray for the living and the dead: Pray daily for friends, neighbors, parents, grandparents and priests.
Begin with one or two a week and watch how these acts of love can grow. Perhaps others will see your positive actions and follow your lead. We can grow divine love as a community, as a community of Christ.
So faith, hope and love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
—1 Cor 13:13
—Terri McCormack is coordinator of marriage and family life for the Diocese of Burlington.
—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.