What is the one virtue that can radically transform your family life? Charity!
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822)
Charity is essential to every Catholic family and makes up the very foundation of who we are as Christians. The month of September marks the beginning of the harvest season, a fitting time to evaluate the fruit we bear for the Lord.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
As parents, we need to avoid the near occasion of being a clashing cymbal and ground our actions in the virtue of charity. Here are five suggestions for growing in the virtue of charity within your own family-
Turn to Our Lady
September is a month we remember the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept. 8 and the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15. The Blessed Mother can help us grow in this virtue if we plead for her intercession, seeking new graces.
The virtue of charity renews us when we are feeling broken and gives us new life to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. In life, we need to know that when the swords of sorrow pierce our hearts, we can turn to Our Lady for strength and consolation. To grow in this virtue spend some time reading and meditating on Luke 1 and take time out of your busy life to pray the rosary.
This powerful prayer provides us an opportunity to meditate on the life of Christ and see it through the eyes of his mother. Mary longs to bring us closer to her son, Jesus and reveal how much he loves us.
Have a heart-to-heart
With a house full of children and a fast-paced lifestyle, it is essential to carve out times for family dialog and discussion. Taking time out to have a “heart-to-heart” and to provide an opportunity for family members to share about crucial life moments is essential for family unity, the development of compassion, and growing in the virtue of charity.
Have your feelings been hurt? Did you hurt your child’s feelings by missing a special event or brushing them off when they needed you? Having a heart-to-heart moment is a great way to develop a more loving family.
Consider having a Sunday night prayer time and family discussion and include time for seeking out forgiveness from each other. When we seek out reconciliation and clear up misunderstandings, hearts can heal and emotionally we can move on.
In my own house on Sunday, we try to gather the children after a family meal and offer an opportunity for meaningful conversations to take place. We always conclude with telling our children that we not only forgive them, but we LOVE them! Sunday is the perfect day to start fresh and grow closer together as a family.
The fruit of prayer is charity
First, seek out the perfect love of Christ to grow in the virtue of charity. Do you ever feel like you are running on spiritual fumes? As the old saying goes, “It is hard to give what you do not have.” There are moments in my own life when my prayer consists of, “Lord, my cup is feeling empty, fill me up!”
We all need God’s love to fill our heart, thus we will better be able to reach out to others and share that love with those who need it the most. Learning to lean on the Lord and his most Sacred Heart is essential.
“Behold this Heart, which has loved so much but has received nothing but coldness, indifference, and ingratitude in return.” These words were expressed from Christ to St. Margaret Alacoque in the 1670s, yet they still reign true today.
We cannot give what we do not have. The virtue of charity needs to stem forth from the heart of Christ and fill us up so that we can respond not with coldness and indifference to others and our God, but with kindness and charity!
We recall in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
God’s love is transforming!
Don’t ever underestimate the power of family prayer. The importance of it cannot be expressed enough. It is essential for parents that we take baby steps toward this goal every day. Christ regularly prayed the psalms with his parents, St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, and we, too, need to carve out time for family prayer, recreation, and times of family unity. Unplug and pray. Remember the famous saying by Ven. Patrick Peyton, “A family that prays together stays together.”
Reach out to others
Pope Francis calls the family to have an “expanding fruitfulness” in his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This fruitfulness comes from expanding goodwill, an outpouring of love toward others, and a willingness to meet them where they are at! The works of mercy are powerful ways to reach out to others and allow the virtue of charity to grow in your own life and impact others.
When speaking about Catholic charitable organizations (this can apply to families, too) Pope Benedict XVI calls them to not only meet the needs of the moment but “dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity” (Deus Caritas Est, 31).
What can your family do to serve others? How can your family reach out to others in need, not only physical needs, but spiritual needs? Can you invite another family to holy Mass and host a brunch afterward to extend a hand of charity? The family unit can significantly impact others when it comes together to serve.
Helping the family to think outside of themselves is a wonderful way to grow in this virtue and expand the perspective of the family. Here is a link to checklists for corporal and spiritual works of mercy for busy mothers for ways to incorporate the works of mercy in your life.
Serve as a missionary in the modern world
Jesus wants us to reach out to others!
He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
As a Catholic family, we need to live out our Catholic faith in daily tasks and duties and provide an example to the world of how to be fully alive with the Gospel! When we keep our eyes on Christ, we can have the confidence to go forth and show charity to others. May our hearts be set on fire with the love of Christ so that we can go forth and serve others.
Charity is essential in every home. Growing in this virtue will not only help our families run more smoothly but also allow our families to be a witness to the world.