The Cistercian
monk, philosopher and theologian Isaac of Stella (1100-1169) was featured in
the Office of Readings today: Charity is the reason why anything should be done
or left undone.

Charity is the only good reason to do anything, but it also
sometimes demands that we not do something we might think we want to do. There
are a lot of fine distinctions one has to make in this area to live spiritually
in common life and ministry. For example:

  • We are called to support one another,
    but not to enable maladaptive behaviors, debilitating addictions, and sins. We
    must bear with the burdens of others, and be willing to wash feet, but we
    should not take responsibility for the feelings of others.
  • We must seek ways to
    invite both individuals and institutions to benefit from our strengths, and
    invite them into the success that derives from them,
    but–again–we should be
    careful not to take interior or exterior responsibility for situations that the
    Holy Spirit
    has not, or not yet, seen fit to put in our care.
  • Sometimes the
    greatest charity–and often the most painful–is not giving someone what he
    thinks he wants
  • We must be good to ourselves, practicing good self-care, but
    that doesn’t mean taking it easy and just ‘being nice’ to ourselves. On the one
    hand, we must not be so hard on ourselves that our whole spiritual life becomes
    a rehearsal of faults and sins, for this is one of the devil’s tricks in making
    us fail to notice God, and on the other we must also be careful not be overly
    forgiving of ourselves so as to effectively give up struggling with certain
    selfishnesses and sins.
  • We must practice the sort of self-charity that
    nourishes our gifts and virtues
    , and is ruthless in the unwillingness to put up
    with sin.
Thanks to my friend Friar Charles for providing grist for the mill.