Only charity will save the world

“Only charity will save the world.[1]

Today we celebrate the anniversary of the canonization of St. Luigi Orione, also known as Don Orione. St. Luigi was an Italian priest who lived during the first half of the 20th century. He was a disciple of St. John Bosco, who dedicated himself to works of charity. He began what is known as the “little Cottolengo’s,” which are homes for the abandoned, disabled and all those who suffer. St. John Paul II spoke of him at his canonization as “a man who gave himself entirely for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom. Physical and moral sufferings, fatigue, difficulty, misunderstandings and all kinds of obstacles characterized his apostolic ministry.[2]” The heart of his charity was “without limits because it was opened wide by the charity of Christ.[3]” St. Luigi would often say amidst his work with the poor “perfect joy can only be found in perfect dedication of oneself to God and man, and to all mankind.[4]” “You must not ask a person where he is from, whether he has a faith or a name but if he feels a pain![5]

Jesus teaches us in the Gospel of Matthew “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). This gospel message resounds in the life and works of Don Orione as it has in so many of the lives of the Saints. It challenges us to seek Christ in all we meet. Mother Teresa said “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself; this is hungry Jesus; I must feed Him. This is sick Jesus. I must wash Him and tend to Him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

This brings us to mediate upon the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The seven-spiritual works of mercy are: to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences, to comfort the afflicted, and to pray for the living and the dead. While the seven-corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to give alms to the poor, and to bury the dead.[6] Pope Francis said during a general audience, “These works of mercy are the features of the face of Jesus Christ, who takes care of his littlest brethren in order to bring the tenderness and closeness of God to each of them. May the Holy Spirit help us; may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the desire to live this way of life: at least once a day, at least! Let us again learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by heart, and ask the Lord to help us put them into practice every day, and in those moments where we see Jesus in a person who is in need.[7]

As we’ve just read, the Holy Father encourages us to do one work of mercy a day. At first glance, that may seem very difficult or overwhelming but “for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). We do not have to seek very far to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).  We can all begin by practicing mercy with those closest to us, by small simple gestures remembering the words of St. Therese of the child Jesus “nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” We can also apply Mother Teresa’s words “We cannot do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Finally, I would like to share with you the words that Jesus spoke to St. Faustina when he revealed to her His Divine Mercy and gave her some instructions about His Mercy. He said “I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbour: the first by deed, the second by word, the third by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy[8]

As we are edified by the works of mercy undertaken by St. Luigi Orione, let ask Our Lady the grace to “do good always, to all, evil to none[9]”. May we “Seek the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.[10]

M. Mary Our Lady of Ostrabrama, SSVM.

[1] St. Luigi Orione, Writings, 62,13.

[2] John Paul II, Homily canonization of St. Luigi Orione.  16 May 2004

[3] St. Luigi Orione, Writings, 102,32.

[4] Ibid. 62,13.

[5] St. Luigi Orione

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447.

[7] Pope Francis, General Audience, 12 October 2016.

[8] St. Faustina’s Diary of Divine Mercy, 1317.

[9] St. Luigi Orione’s motto

[10] Mother Teresa

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