Father Carrón clarifies The Meaning of Charitable Work

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Today, I had the opportunity to speak to Father Julián Carrón so as to clarify an aspect of what the Movement of Communion and Liberation understands its founder, Father Luigi Giussani to mean by doing charitable work. One of the central characteristics in the life of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation is doing charitable work, where I see "the final powerlessness of my love" and the presence of Christ now.

Father Giussani's text on the meaning of charitable work is a very document that speaks of the reasons why we charitable work but doesn't tell us how to do it. The mechanics, if you will, are not given because they have to be given flesh in a local, concrete experience. Hence, there's a bit confusion on what it means for the members of CL do works of charity.
The kernel of the confusion is what is meant by doing an on-going work of charity "together." Some, it seems, have been taught that charitable work is done together as a group. But when you have a group of any size above 4 it is often very difficult to arrange for a work of charity where the group can do the work in the same room at the same time. There is a natural limitation built into this view of doing work: where can you find an agency that may have a work of charity that 20 people can work in one room at the same time? There aren't many places.

The objective of doing charitable work is not about being a group of do-good-ers. We do charitable work because it educates us to greater freedom in Christ with another person. We work charitably with others because of our love for Christ. That is to say, "I love Christ, therefore I love others." Love here is not the mere sentiment but the concern we have for others to meet the Lord in a concrete way. It is praiseworthy to work for social concern agency (hospital, soup kitchen, school, etc.) helping people in need. Not only is it laudable, it is what make humanity more sensitive to other people. But as Christians, as members of CL, the doing of charitable is not about doing the works of charity for the sake of doing works of charity. We are not a NGO. We are not a NGO because each person asks him or herself: How am I changed by this experience that I am living right now? What is different in life due to my exercising my human need to help others?

As Father Carrón said, he's full of gratitude knowing that through the years members of CL have lived the Gospel more fully and have learned what it means to be more fully human by doing charitable work. He noted to me that there's something important in doing charitable work: if we are honest with ourselves we may recognize with the help of others that we are changed people by the experience of exercising the law of charity, of seeing the ourselves in action. Father Giussani spoke of charitable work as being a starting point of helping others who are need because we see a need. Additionally, we become more human in doing something for others to the point of realizing that we complete a desire of our heart which cries out for fulfillment and gratitude. We share our being with others because we desire to follow Jesus Christ as closely as possible and to be in communion with others (in friendship). What matters is the other person.

So, what's the point that Father Carrón made: do charitable work. It's not a matter of doing a work together in a group at the same time in the same place. It is crucially important that  CL does charitable work. A possible framework is to do the charitable work in the context of prayer concluding the time of a work of charity with giving a judgment on the experience. That is, what's the meaning received from doing this particular work? How do we assess, evaluate what's in front of me and what value does this experience have for me? Father Carrón was clear on another aspect: we do charitable work under the guidance of another. We follow another; we follow Christ, we follow the leader of the group; we don't work as singular agents. That is, what meaning is derived from working with another person? How am I changed by this concrete experience? How is my humanity more fully realized? What is Christ trying to teach me about Himself, me and the other person?

Why is this important? It is important because we can easily allow ourselves to be too complacent in living the graces given in following the charism given by Father Giussani and now Father Carrón. Are we available to the Grace given to us by Another?

One last aspect: the test of one's true character is how one uses his or her free time. How do we relax, how do we build relationships, how do we live with a changed humanity even when we are tired and irritable?

Here is Monsignor Luigi Giussani's text, "The Meaning of Charitable Work": Meaning of Charitable Work.pdf

I want to recall what Father Carrón stated at the 2007 Fraternity's Spiritual Exercises:

Fr. Giussani created a gesture to help us understand this law of charity, starting from experience: charitable work. He says that in order to understand, knowing is not enough --you must do. This is the edcucative value, for everybody, of charitable work, where we learn and verify the law of existence as a gift. 'Our nature gives us the need to care for others. ...We go to charitable work to satisfy this need. Therefore, if we want to learn this law, we can't abandon this fundamental educative gesture.


Thanks, Paul. That is very useful, the notion of doing charitable work as completing a desire of our own hearts. I hope you had a good time at the Vacation. WB

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



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