We have come to the end of the Lenten Season and now enter into the Triduum. What a great time to really grow in the understanding of the virtue of Charity. I believe this is the virtue that is most necessary for a truly happy, healthy, and holy marriage.
In our final lecture by Fr. Ripperger, we are given a great catechesis on what seems to be a misunderstood virtue. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the virtue of Charity in the glossary as follows; “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.” It all goes back to God! It’s not about cleaning out my closet and taking my worn-out and out of style clothes to the thrift store. Unless, that is done with love for God and caring for HIs poor.
Charity is a love of God, not just the gifts of God. For marriage to really be lived as God intended from the beginning, Charity must be the foundation of the relationship. We must learn how to love one another for love of God more than all the good that God has given in us in our marriage. That begins with what Aristotle called an authentic friendship, a relationship of a common love. What must be in common is the love of God, not just a common life. Does that mean that a couple who does not share the faith can’t have a good marriage? The answer lies in the question. Do you want a good marriage or a marriage according to God’s plan, which will be a great marriage? When Charity is the common goal of the couple, they are moving in the right direction.
Fr. Ripperger explains that we cannot love God on our own. Charity is a supernatural gift from God to the will. When we choose to be open in our minds, our hearts, and our lives to that gift we can grow in Charity. The key is to be open to the gift. This is so important for marriage and family because if we don’t have our own spiritual life in order we can’t help anyone else in their spiritual life. It’s the old saying, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” If we are supposed to help our spouse get to Heaven and together help our children get there too, we have to be equipped ourselves.
Fr. Ripperger gives a list of ways to increase Charity. We’ll get to a few of those in a bit. First, we need to look at a few ways in which we sin against the virtue of Charity, especially in the marriage and family.
First, spiritual sloth. If we say that God is the number one love of our lives, does the way in which we spend our time reveal that? Do I spend as much time praying as I spend watching Netflix? Do I share God’s love with my spouse and children through focused time or am I too busy with “necessary” things? Am I learning as much or more about the faith, that is supposed to lead us closer to God, as I am about what’s going on in the world or about a hobby? The Holy Spirit often visits our hearts calling us to spend some time with Him. Do we recognize it and respond positively, or decide that I’m just too tired to do anything other than veg in front of the tv? Again, Charity is a gift to the will. We have to use the will to make the right choices in how we will spend our time.
Second, schism. We are in a really strange time in the history and future of the Catholic Church. Things are being said and done that are not in line with the teaching that Christ left to His Church to explain and defend. But leaving the Church isn’t the answer. It says that we don’t agree with Christ’s Church. So who's church is going to be better? The solution to all the issues in the Church right now is to actually learn what the Church has always taught and then share it with your family. When one decides that the Barque of Peter isn’t worthy of his support and leads his family out of the boat, he not only damages his own relationship with God but potentially damages the relationship of each member of his family with Christ as well, possibly causing everyone to sink. That’s not something for which we want to answer one day.
Third, disordered anger. This is an interesting one because it takes thinking a little deeper. Fr. Ripperger defines anger as an emotional state that seeks to inflict harm. Most people are probably thinking, I have been angry with my spouse, but I didn’t intend to inflict harm. Here’s where we need to go a bit deeper. Oftentimes we automatically think about physical harm, but there is also emotional harm. Stop and think about a time when you have been angry with your spouse. Was your anger ultimately about either revenge or control? Were your words and behavior a dig, trying to get back at the other? Or were those words or behavior a means of control by shutting down our spouse with uncharitable behavior?
All three of these examples of sins against Charity are sins because we are not loving the other person for love of God, nor are we loving God in that moment.
So how can we increase the virtue of Charity in ourselves so that we are both loving our spouse or children and thereby honoring God? Fr. Ripperger gives a list of eleven methods. Here is the list:
1. Make an Act of Charity
Many prayer books contain one
A simple statement of love to God - “I love you, Lord!”
2. Develop a prayer life
If you want to develop a relationship with someone don’t you need to spend time with them?
3. Avoid the media
4. Do prayer, suffering, and good works
5. Do acts of kindness for others out of love for God
7. Do everything for the glory of God
“Do small things with great love.” ~St. Mother Teresa~
8. Make a morning offering
Give your day to the Lord
Let His plans be your plans
9. Stop sinning - even venial
10. Foster devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
11. Foster devotion to the Sacred Heart
There you have it. Do you want the love in your marriage and family to grow? The best way to accomplish that is to grow in the virtue of Charity yourself. Learning to love your spouse and children out of love for God will change everything!
Our prayer for you all is that your family will enter into the Triduum and will grow in your love of Christ?