Finding Ways to Grow in God’s Perfect Charity

Since finding my way back to sincere faith in Jesus Christ and the comfort and support of Catholic communities like ours here at St. Peter’s, I have learned many things, and by the grace of God I believe that I’m a better person for it. Because of this, I hope that I never stop seeking new ways to grow ever closer to Him.

As I was reading the Scripture for this weekend, I was reminded of how vital it is to put our faith and trust in the One who loves us limitlessly. It’s important to continue to learn new ways to pray and more ways to allow Jesus into our hearts in every way.

This winter I had the good fortune of spending Palm Sunday weekend on silent retreat with other women at the Franciscan Retreat Center in Prior Lake. It is perhaps one of the most powerful retreats I’ve been on in terms of my own spiritual awakening and personal healing. I want to share with you an example from that weekend which, at least for me, parallels the messages in today’s readings.

Having gone with no expectations, but feeling a profound longing for a deeper way to connect in prayer, I wandered through the chapel after settling into my room. As I walked past the library, an image of St. Michael caught my eye. Several times I walked past the image. The Archangel Michael has always appealed to me, but I admit that I didn’t really know much of him. Next I made my way down to the bookstore thinking that perhaps the Holy Spirit was prompting me, and I thought maybe a holy card with the archangel’s likeness would be helpful in my devotions over the weekend. Instead, I came across the Chaplet Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. It became the center of my prayer that weekend, and continues to be a standard for me now. The chaplet is a petition for the intercessions of each of the choirs of angels in becoming more as God would have us be in our lives, and at the same time to resist the devil and his deceits. As St. Paul points out in his letter to the Corinthians, we are to “excel… in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you.” We are also to excel in real charity. In the first salutation of the Chaplet of St. Michael, we pray that we will be made worthy to receive into our hearts the fire of God’s perfect charity. St. Paul defines this not as giving up our abundance to make others more comfortable, but rather this perfect charity of God—equality of abundance.

Last week, Pope Francis released his second encyclical. Its title, Laudato Si, (Care for Our Common Home), is the first two words of the encyclical, which opens with the line: “Laudato si, mi Signore!” (“Be praised, my Lord!”) This is a quote from the 13th century song “Canticle of the Sun,” written by Pope Francis’ namesake, St. Francis of Assisi. Although I have yet to finish the entire letter, my initial understanding is that Papa Francesco is encouraging the very thing that St. Paul is in his letter. We are being challenged to recognize the difference between “need” and “greed” and to see it from the perspective of God’s will for our stewardship of all of His creation, both the natural world and each other.

Reading the pope’s letter, I again call to mind the petitions of the chaplet to St. Michael: to receive perfect charity in our hearts, abandon sin for Christian perfection, true and sincere humility, dominion over our passions, resistance of the devil’s deceits, delivery from evil and temptation, a spirit of obedience, and perseverance in faith. It never stops surprising me that God opens my heart to new ways of prayer and intimacy with Christ and then applies them to my daily experiences and activities—like the reading of Pope Francis’s letter.

As we begin to enjoy warmer temperatures, longer days, and the glory of the blooming of God’s creation around us, let’s continue to seek out new ways to grow in faith. There are real and significant opportunities for rejoicing in the world given by our Father. Now is the time to find new and deeper ways to pray and the rise to the challenge of caring for it, and one another.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. Amen.

(Pope Francis, Laudato Si)

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