ONCE upon a time, there lived people who pretended that nothing had

existence outside the mind, that objects were merely fictions of the

brain; thus, when they gave a name to those objects, it was like

sticking a label in the air where they seemed to be. The world is not

without folks who have similar ideas concerning charity, to whom it is

a name without substance. Scarcely a Christian but will pretend that he

has the
virtue of charity, and of course one must take his word for it,

and leave his actions and conduct out of all consideration. With him,

to love God is to say you do, whether you really do or not. This is

charity of the "sounding brass and tinkling cymbal" assortment.

To be honest about it, charity or love of God is nothing more or less,

practically, than freedom from, and avoidance of, mortal sin. "If any

one say, 'I love God' and hates his brother, (or otherwise sins) he is

a liar." Strong language, but straight to the point! The state of grace

is the first, fundamental, and essential condition to the existence of

charity. Charity and mortal sin are two things irreducibly opposed,

uncompromisingly antagonistic, eternally inimical. There is no charity

where there is sin; there is no sin where there is charity. That is why

charity is called the fulfilment of the law.

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that humble folks of the world,

striving against temptation and sin to serve the Master, imagine they

can hardly succeed. True, they rarely offend and to no great extent of

malice, but they envy the lot of others more advantageously situated,

they think, nearer by talent and state to perfection, basking in the

sunshine of God's love. Talent, position, much exterior activity, much

supposed goodness, are, in their eyes, titles to the kingdom, and

infallible signs of charity. And then they foolishly deplore their own

state as far removed from that perfection, because forsooth their minds

are uncultured, their faith simple, and their time taken up with the

drudgery of life.

They forget that not this gift or that work or anything else is

necessary. One thing alone is necessary, and that is practical love of

God. Nothing counts without it. And the sage over his books, the

wonder-worker at his task, the apostle in his wanderings and labors,

the very martyr on the rack is no more sure of having charity than the

most humble man, woman or child in the lowest walks of life who loves

God too much to offend Him. It is not necessary to have the tongues of

men and angels, or faith that will move mountains, or the fortitude of

martyrs; charity expressed in our lives and deeds rates higher than


A thing is good in the eyes of its maker if it accomplishes that for

which it was made. A watch that does not tell time, a knife that does

not cut, and a soul that does not love God are three utterly useless

things. And why? Because they are no good for what they were made. The

watch exists solely to tell the hour, the blade to cut and the soul to

love and serve its Maker. Failing in this, there is no more reason for

their being. Their utility ceasing, they themselves cease to exist to a

certain extent, for a thing is really no longer what it was, when it

fails to execute that for which it came into being.

Charity, in a word, amounts to this, that we love God, but to the

extent of not offending Him. Anything that falls short of such

affection is something other than charity, no matter how many tags and

labels it may wear. If I beheld a brute strike down an aged parent, I

would not for a moment think that affection was behind that blow; and I

could not conceive how there could be a spark of filial love in that

son's heart until he had atoned for his crime. Now love is not one

thing when directed towards God, and another where man is concerned.

The great hypocrisy of life consists in this that people make an

outward showing of loving God, because they know full well that it is

their first duty; yet, for all that, they do not a whit mend their

ways, and to sin costs them nothing. They varnish it over with an

appearance of honesty and decency, and fair-minded men take them for

what they appear to be, and should be, and they pass for such. These

watches are pretty to look upon, beautiful, magnificent, but they are

stopped, the interior is out of order, the main-spring is broken, the

hands that run across the face lie. These blades are bright and

handsome, but they are dull, blunt, full of nicks, good enough for

coarse and vulgar work, but useless for the fine, delicate work for

which they were made.

The master mechanic and artist of our souls who wants trustworthy

timepieces and keen blades, will not be deceived by these gaudy

trinkets, and will reject them. Others may esteem you for this or that

quality, admire this or that qualification you possess, be taken with

their superficial gloss and accidental usefulness. The quality required

by Him who made you is that your soul be filled with charity, and

proven by absence of sin.