December 15, 2007


Introduction to the teachings of St. Anthony Zaccaria on CHARITY

Fr. Anthony M. Gentili, CRSP
Fr. John M. Scalese, CRSP

God’s love is indeed needed; …,
and its means is the love of neighbor.”

[Sermon IV]

Charity is, first of all, love of God. The theme of the sermon is love. ‘’Love is the only virtue that counts. Ah the other virtues do not count at all without love” (Sermon IV). Here, Zaccaria, using chapter 13 of the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, gives a long list of examples to prove his point. He concludes: “If eloquence has no value, because it proceeds from ‘wise argumentation;’ if science (has no value), because it ‘inflates;’ if faith (has no value) because without works it is dead; if the very works are useless when they do not proceed out of love: it is rather imperative, it is necessary - I tell you - to have this love, which makes you pleasing to God” (Sr IV). These last words reveal the profound reason for the need of charity: without it, man is not pleas­ing to God; it is charity (which, then, is identified with gratia gratum faciens, that is, sanctifying grace) that makes man pleasing to God, and enables him to become the subject of all other virtues.

To further demonstrate the need of charity, Antho­ny Mary speaks about the “way of charity,” which can be followed in two ways. It has been followed from the top to the bottom. “Why did the Son of God come down on earth, if not to bring love? .. Oh, great mercy! Oh, immense love! God has hum­bled Himself so much, so that man could love Him again, and through this love be saved! “ (Sermon IV). But the “way of charity” has to be followed in the other way too, that is, from the bottom to the top. The “straight road to heaven” is “so narrow and difficult” that it, cannot be followed “without delight” without being sustained by love: “It is not possible to go through these difficulties, and to car­ry this burden, without love, since it is love that car­ries the burden.” We can conclude then: “The love of God is indeed needed; without His love we can do nothing; everything relies on it” (Sermon IV).

Love of Our Neighbor
Secondly, charity is love of our neighbor. The love of our neighbor is a sacrament, that is, a sign and an instrument of the love of God: “One and the same helps you to acquire it, to increase it, to aug­ment it, and in addition it shows when it is there. Do you know what it is? It is charity, the love of our neighbor” (Sermon IV). On its part, the love of our neighbor embraces friends and enemies, according to the following rule: “To love friends in Him, and to love enemies because of Him” (Sermon III), an affirmation taken directly from Gregory the Great who says: “Caritas vera est amicum diligere in Deo et inimicum diligere propter Deum” (Homiliae in Evangelia). The love of our neighbor is translated in acts of mercy recalled by the Saint in these terms: “... feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, free the prisoner. Plan your activities, perform them for love of God, have a right intention, select the best, do the right, and in every thing be motivated by charity” (Sermon III, cf Sermon IV, where he talks about “the final account of Judgment Day”).
Zaccaria dwells a lot in illustrating the need for hu­man mediation in our relationship with God and concludes summing up his thought: “If this, my friend, does not seem enough, we cannot have a true experience except through man, since God is spirit and man body. God usually operates in this way: one man with another. Man has been healed through that very means which got him sick; and, since the passions belong to the body, only through another man he can be freed from them. If all I have said so far fails to convince you that love of God is effected and manifested by love of neighbor, be at least convinced by this, that for this very reason God became man” (Sermon I). Another practical application of this principle is apostolic charity, recalled by Gabuzio (His­toria) in a very moving episode: “One day, after the death of Anthony Mary, Fr. Sore­sina, overcome by laziness, or because he was tired, postponed the confession of a sick person. The following night, before falling asleep, he heard clearly the voice, well known to him of Zaccaria: ‘Sir Battista, my good brother, where is the love taught to us by our Paul? Why did you neglect that soul?’” (Appendix A, in Writings of Saint An­thony Mary Zaccaria, Youngstown, NY, 1998, (unpublished).

Famous Sayings on CHARITY

1. Charity is the love of God by which we are loved by Him so that we might imitate Him and love Him to His honor.

2. Charity seeks only the pure honor of God and the pure contempt of oneself.

3. Charity is a spontaneous and unsurpassed delight of God by which, without despair, one reaches real and perfect abnegation of oneself.

4. Charity is loving God unconditionally with all one’s heart. It is loving Him with all one’s mind, always keeping Him in thought. It is loving Him with all one’s soul, forgoing any sensuality or pleasure; and with all one’s strength, so that even in adversity one never feels burdened.

5. Charity keeps every virtue and discards every vice. Therefore, a vicious person cannot be considered charitable.

6. Charity is an enduring heart that faces moments of joy as well as sorrow. It does not fear suffering; rather, it rejoices in times of difficulty and pain.

7. Charity is purification of the mind. It sees that which is advantageous to God’s honor, profitable to our well-being, and beneficial to the welfare of others.

8.Although charity may come with a reward, he who seeks the reward for selfish motives will go on wanting.

9. Charity continues to stimulate life and energy until it becomes perfect.

10. Charity does not get cold with time, nor does it become lukewarm in tribulation. It does not tire from toil, but returns with greater vigor to the work already started and malicious is full of rancor.

11. Charity becomes inactive and sluggish if it does not do great things.

12. Most of the time under the pretext of charity, the essence of interior chastity is defeated.

13. If you want to know if you have charity in you, understand that it is patient and kind. If you are hard and impatient with others, you are far from charitable.

14. Charity does not know envy or malice. He who is envious and malicious is full of rancor.

15. Charity is neither pompous nor ambitious. Therefore, anyone who always seeks acclaim is deprived of it.

16. Charity does not seek for itself. Selfishness excludes charity.

17. Charity does not get angry. It does not think negatively nor does it judge harshly. Instead, it excuses every fault and overlooks the defects of others.

18. Charity does not rejoice over the misfortunes of others, but delights in their successes and grieves over their sins.

19. Charity bears all ills, believes in every good, hopes in every difficult and naturally impossible thing and, like a solid rock, sustains every burden without faltering.

20. Charity never fails. It continues to grow even if faith and hope have ceased.

21. Many think of loving their neighbor based solely on natural affection and not on charity. This perception does not have any merit.

22. He who regards himself to be charitable must be prepared to suffer for the well-being of others.

23. Charity is no less concerned nor less affable towards an enemy than towards a friend.

24. Charity does not reprove the enemy, but strives to make amends for the wrong he has done. Charity knows no enemy and shows graciousness to all.

25. Charity makes us realize that we need adversaries to whom we are called to practice benevolence and friendliness.

26. Charity naturally warms the heart. At other times, it makes the heart cold, depending on the diversity of emotions.

27. When charity is shown in great abundance, it brings about in man an unusual increase of physical and spiritual strength.

28. Charity makes the face glow and changes its appearance, making it lovable and admirable to behold.

29. Charity casts away every inflicting fear of whatever frightful thing, especially that of hearing God say in His wrath, “I condemn you to eternal punishment.”

30. Charity completely eliminates every feeling of shame or disgrace.

31. Charity does not leave the mind in its usual condition. It breaks any strict mentality. It is far better that our mind follows the impulse and movement of the spirit.

32. Charity brings light that makes itself better known by him who possesses it.

33. He who possesses charity perceives better in an instant what another does not perceive for a long time. With just a glance, he already sees many familiar things.

34. Charity utters words that cannot be understood, or indeed are difficult to grasp.

35. Charity always makes some gestures and movements, or says some words, which may seem foolish to those who are unenlightened.

36. There is nothing so displeasing or deadly that charity might not consider pleasing and enjoyable.

37. Charity continuously perseveres in prayer and does not tire from contemplating. At times while working, it lifts up the spirit to God.

38. Charity overcomes the appetite and loses one’s discernment for food.

39. Charity reflects more clearly and more significantly the wisdom of God and the knowledge of natural things more than all the books of Philosophy.

40. Lastly, charity never grows weary. Its nature can never be completely explained or defined, nor can it be understood in any way. It surpasses all things, because charity is God Himself.

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