A blog where families who love and live the Catholic Faith can share, encourage and support each other.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Act of Mercy

By Sarah

One cold, windswept summer evening in London about thirty years ago I was standing outside a theatre with my family waiting for transport home, wearing a very pretty summery dress of which I was particularly fond. I was very cold. My brother offered me his jacket, and perversely, I refused, so instead shivered on until the car finally arrived.

Before we all went to bed, my mother took me aside and said, “My dear, you must have the humility to accept help when it is offered, and the charity to allow another person the pleasure of being able to help. Don’t be so ungracious.” It is a suggestion which has remained with me since, because so frequently I am too proud to allow another the pleasure of helping me, even when (as all those years ago) I would indeed benefit from the help. I sometimes have to deliberately quell the instant response of “No, thank you” and humble myself to reply instead “yes, please”. It is extraordinary how resistant I find myself to the notion. Perhaps I feel it is demeaning to need help; I don’t really know. But it is a difficult virtue to be able to offer help in a fashion that is unassuming, altruistic and easily accepted. I suppose it is a branch of charity, just as – as my mother pointed out to me – accepting help graciously is a branch of charity.

Charity is a wonderful virtue. I just wish I had more of it. Over and over again I realize I have failed in charity, in all sorts of ways, and it is a frustrating realization. If only I could catch myself in time! It reminds me of St James’ instructions on bridling one’s tongue. Such a little instrument to do such great harm, and with what rapidity! Someone once suggested to me that if I feel I am about to utter an uncharitable remark, I should pause and under my breath utter the prayer ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’ – not a bad suggestion, in as much as it causes us to pause and often that is all that is needed in prevention, but it could be taken the wrong way: the mother of a friend of mine was using that ejaculation privately whilst in labour, when, caught unawares by a sudden strong contraction she involuntarily cried it aloud, to be rebuked by the Catholic assisting midwife for her unsuitable language!

But misunderstandings aside, we do indeed need charity, as we do need the assistance of the Holy Family, and every Lent I make that good resolution… and every Lent I fail… but I guess I have to keep trying. There isn’t another option, really, Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

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