I always look for evidence –that is, I am looking for light on a situation that may not be very clear for me– i.e., for the reality, the truth and beauty of a vigorous Catholic life by seeing if people are willing to live the Gospel. We do our best given the graces we’ve received and our own open hearts. I find myself in need to know that others belief that that the promises (and extraordinary claims) of Christ are true and are lived. Novel, right? Not really. We Catholics have been concerned for the welfare of others since the time Jesus and because our Christianity has its roots in Judaism, even before Jesus. Just read the Old Testament and dig into the narrative there. But it is Jesus gives a new lens by which to see life and to live differently today by the fact of the Paschal Mystery (His life, death, resurrection and ascension).
When one follows the lay ecclesial movement of Communion and Liberation (CL) you quickly find out that you belong to a group of friends larger than oneself and that we aim to care for the needs (the faith, education, culture, social assistance) of others. The idea is rooted in what we read int he Acts of the Apostles and various letters of Saint Paul. Our doing good is not just another forum of activism. It is based on the Savior’s life and example.
Here are two points made by Father Julián Carrón, President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation and the successor of Father Luigi Giussani, to flesh out these two wings of our companionship –either as Catholics who live their life only in the parish, and for those who belong to a group like CL.
Charitable work is more than doing philanthropy. It is more than merely giving food to the Thanksgiving food baskets or doing work for Habitat for Humanity. Don’t get me wrong: these things are excellent works and there is a wonderful sense of team work and satisfaction in doing something for another. A work of charity is a work of recognizing the virtue of gratitude placed in our hearts by God Himself. In what ways am I grateful and do I recognize what gratitude means in my life?
The common fund supports the work of the Movement in its missionary, charitable and culture works. No fixed amount is required; just a faithful and free offering of self. The tradition of the Church is to give a percentage one’s income, a tithe. Both the common fund helps us to know what Christ means by the Law of Charity. Will the common fund engage me more deeply in making Christ known locally and globally?
On charitable work, the Law of Charity:
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 educative value, for everybody, of charitable work, where we learn and verify the law of existence as gift. ‘Our nature gives us the need to care for the 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 (Fraternity Exercises 2007).
On the common fund, the Law of Charity
… The commitment to the Common Fund comes before any particular initiatives for your [local] communities, be that a charitable, missionary or other type. The Fraternity Common Fund is for the construction of the common work that is the movement, and this, he taught us, is much more to the glory of God with respect to any other support to particular people and works, even just. It has to do with educating ourselves and opening ourselves up first and foremost to the judgment about the criterion with which we do everything.
In doing charitable work and giving to the common fund, there is a sacrifice that is made by each of us in authentically following the Lord in very concrete ways to see and live the ways in which the Lord concretely manifests Himself right now. Not only the memory of how the Lord worked in the past, but how He works at the very moment in our lives and in the lives of our friends, or strangers.