Monday, May 28, 2012

Charity and the love of God and neighbour.

I learnt something from my godson yesterday when I spoke with him over the phone in Holland.  Apparently, Holland has a public holiday on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday.  I remarked that it was rather interesting because from what I know about the church in Holland, it is as alive as a doornail.  The Dutch church had experienced persecution in the past, and after having been emancipated in the 1860s for about a century, it gained some ground, but it has not been anywhere near being a strong Christian country, but instead, has been a tremendously secular society.  Apparently, less than 2% of the country’s Catholics are regular in Mass attendance.  So, it was very interesting to hear that the entire country ‘celebrates’ Pentecost Sunday as a public holiday.  My suspicion is that it had a history of being meaningfully celebrated in that country as a religious holiday in its past, and this is somewhat of a ‘hold-over’ holiday, and because it doesn’t take a religious person to enjoy a day off from work, most, if not all, would want that retained, even if only as a religious holiday in the nominal form. 

But it is a pity.  On a day like Pentecost, where the Church celebrates a maturity of faith, a strengthening of the Spirit, an enriching of wisdom and an outpouring of fortitude and proper fear of the Lord, there are people celebrating a holiday of this event only in name.  Instead, many would have taken quite a few (or a few hundred) steps backward in terms of faith, weakened in the Spirit, and have little fear and instead, disregard for the Lord.  Yet, they want the holiday.  I am sure that there are other countries like this, but the only reason I am citing Holland is because I had a first-hand encounter of this.  I am sure that it is not alone.  In fact, it is such a pressing problem that Pope Benedict is embarking on the New Evangelization strongly, in an effort to re-evangelize the Catholics who have all but thrown out their faith of the window because they have come to the conclusion that their faith is no longer meaningful.  The truth, however, is just the opposite – Catholics who have left often find out later that what they thought was the truth, was their interpretation of the truth, and perhaps something a result of being catechized poorly or learning from wrong teachers.  Sadly, the secular society is a very bad teacher of core Christian values, and this ‘teacher’ has misled thousands, if not millions, from what true Christianity is about.  Indeed, the New Evangelization effort is very necessary right now.

Stained glass impressions of the Theological Virtues of Hope, Charity and Faith 
We don’t need to go far from home to see this effect of bad catechesis and poor praxis of the faith.  I just realized that one of the people who had asked me to bless a new home just before I left Singapore for the United States last year was a person who had actually left the Church for quite a number of years, perhaps decades.  In a casual conversation with one of her relatives whom I personally know, it was only revealed to me that this person was ‘desperate’ to have her new apartment blessed so that she could live there peacefully.  I had no idea that this was not a ‘practicing’ Catholic when I went there to bless her home.  As a general rule of thumb, I would ensure that Catholics have as little of a superstitious mentality as possible before I proceed to bless homes.  Hopefully, the little catechesis I give before blessing anything causes them to ponder about their relationship with God. 

A secular country celebrating a spiritual holiday.  A non-practicing Catholic wanting her home blessed.  What do these two have in common?  Maybe one thing – that there is a great desire to love the grace of God, but a great reluctance to love the God of grace.  Is this disturbing?  To a priest whose life is all about getting folk to open their hearts to the love of God, it certainly is.  It shows me that there is just so much more to do, because there are so many levels of society which have yet to hear the Word of truth in life. 

The nurturing of the theological virtue of Charity is something that has been impressed on me by my Dominican lecturers in the course that I am taking right now.  Charity is also the theological virtue that enables us to love our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God.  It is the virtue which, as St Thomas says, allows us to love other for the sake of the other.  It is what allowed Jesus to say ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do’ on Calvary.  It must be what allows so many injustices to go on, not because we condone it, but because it is a reflection of ignorance.  Charity binds everything in perfect harmony, upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and ultimately, raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.  Without the gift of Charity as a virtue, we would end up only loving ourselves in a selfish and introverted way, and deface the divine image that we are created in.

When I act with true Charity in the heart, it becomes less important if a non-practicing Catholic doesn’t go back to Church on Sunday after I bless her home, though of course it would be much better if she does.  Charity also makes me say that perhaps it is still good that Holland has Pentecost Monday as a public holiday though only 1.2 percent are Church-going, because it makes the Dutch think, even for a moment or two, about the Holy Spirit in their lives.  Charity enables me to not think that I have ‘wasted’ my time catechizing her before blessing the home, because it would allow some way for God’s word to gain access to her heart, even for a moment or two.  In other words, it’s ok if things are still not perfect on the spiritual front before they enjoy the good things of God, because Christ did not wait till the world was sinless before he died for it. 

But I have also realized that my being as close to a state of grace does play a great part in whether or not I let Charity operate through me.  It is only when I am aware of this that my priesthood becomes an instrument of holiness for others, making my personal choice for God and holiness, so that it can become a reason for others to make similar choices in life. 


  1. Dear Fr. Luke,
    Speaking of catechesis, or lack thereof, (sorry, I know this is a little off-topic), I was born and raised Catholic, and yet my faith formation was limited to "folowing what mum and dad did" and of course, catechism class on Sunday after church. I suppose if we don't go beyond this then our faith will only be superficial at best - limited to a set of religious practices and rituals.

    Now, many years later I've come to the conclusion that what a child really needs to grow in his or her faith is a hero. Someone who would inspire them to love God above all others. And this has to be the parent(s) of that child. Genuine faith has to be lived at a heroic level, and the children have to see this first hand. That is why divorce is so ruinous to the spiritual as well as emotional well-being of a person. The two go hand-in-hand.

    I've made so many mistakes as a parent and I'm trying my best now to rectify the situation (with God's help, of course). Holland, along with so many other countries can now be classifed as "post-Christian" simply because the faith has not been handed down to the next generation. One thing I always pray for is the return of lapsed Catholics.

    God Bless,

  2. dear fr Luke

    I once contacted a priest to bless a migrant house.. This priest awas not from his country. And surprisingly after abt 2 wks later when i met this migrant again.. he told me he wanted a priest from his hometown to bless the house again..

    I told him once blessing is enough and not to have supertitious mentality to having a 2nd blessing. I told him, while we are invoking God's grace and blessing upon the house, we too must live a life that is mirrored in the image of Christ.. as close as possible.

    And surprisingly he agreed with me..


    1. Hi Fr Luke,
      Thank you Fr.for this post,there is hope.God has Blessed you to bring His Word to the Ends of the World.
      God Bless.

  3. Hi Father Luke

    Yesterday we were at the Saccre rally for Pentecost Sunday at CTK. Father William Goh and later reiterated by our Archbishop Nicholas Chia, on the New Evangelization, he did said that what our children lack is a personal relationship with God. I asked my 10 year old daughter if she has a good relationship with God. She went errrrr..... That's a tough question to answer! I asked her to reflect upon it. So I agree with Robbie that children need to know and grow in Faith through a heroic figure, namely, the parents. However, sometimes, we as parents, fail. Thus, as part of reforming for the New Evangelization of the church, how catechism classes are taught must be changed too. Under SD Fr Erbin, at the Archdiocese level, catechism sessions are now meant to help our children to encounter God and to guide them to build a relationship with God through Jesus and I do feel encouraged by what our priests are doing in Singapore. The way we live our Faith must change. Under this Renewal, we pray fervently for the revitalization of Faith of our children.

    Thank you Fr Luke.


    1. Yes, Nicole; as parents it is our most sacred duty to lead our children to Christ. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I have not always been up to the task. The transmission of the faith to the next generation is of supreme importance and thus we have to take our marriage vows seriously and never waver. But God is with us and He constantly blesses those who follow Him faithfully.

  4. Dear Fr Luke..

    Its a little ironic that people would wanting to call themselves catholics or christians.. but love to do anything that is not christian in nature. eg not praying or praying little .. etc.. I suppose they are CIMO or christians or catholics in name only..I dun know what casuse this i.e CINO but maybe its a higher social status.. "oh which church u attend ah??"" I attend so and so church lah" " oh i see.. then u know this or that guy....??

    I suppose the lack of being to be a faithful catholic stem from fact the maybe the surrounding home environment or the kind of pple u mix with. If yr family mostly consist of "nominal catholics" then you are likely to be one too!.. If your family esp parents are devout catholics trying their best to live to live their faith eg praying daily, read the scriptures, put on best their christian behavior, then likewise the kids will do that too.. as you can read in the lives of the many of the saints.. Cathechists can only teach that much faith but bear in mind that the home is the domestic church as the late John paul II has said.

    The faith that parents impart will eventually go a long way for their salvation.. nominal or could be not bothered will bear little fruits or no fruits at all.. faithfulness to the Lord will eventually bear muich fruits and for generations to come..



  5. ‘’But I have also realized that my being as close to a state of grace does play a great part in whether or not I let Charity operate through me. It is only when I am aware of this that my priesthood becomes an instrument of holiness for others, ......’’ - this is a beautiful insight and I am touched by its humility, thank you.

    I only fully appreciate this today when I heard the first reading at mass - ( 1Peter 1:18-25) especially......’’let your love for each other be real and from the heart ......All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls.....’’ It would seem that if one had true charity, one knows in our deepest being that all earthly things are vain........for no matter how small a deed, if it is done with charity/love it would be most significant in God’s eyes! Real charity then is not self- seeking but does all for the honour, the love or glory of God, and God alone.

    Often, what appears to be charity is really done for other motives – like self-love, some personal benefit or the hope of a reward. This is not trying to be-little our charitable actions, but sometimes we ‘do a lot’ of good things that uses the mind but does not engage the heart. So in the Christian sense, charity is a special grace that flows through ‘human conduits’ - using them as instruments of dispensing God’s mercy and love to those in need. And that is why your statement that- ‘’my being as close to a state of grace does play a great part in whether or not I let Charity operate through me.’’- makes me feel that charity when allowed to ‘flow’ in this manner – blesses both, the one who gives and the one who receives as well.
    God bless you, Fr