Last week, Franciscan sponsored its annual "Vocations Awareness Day," with over 75 religious orders (both men's and women's orders) setting up booths in the Finnegan Field house. Jacob and I went, because it's always fun to talk with religious, AND...they always have free stuff at their booths. (Note: the Byzantine booth is always really nice-looking, and there's this young woman at the booth who walks around offering people candy from her basket! How cool is that?)
FREE CANDY!!!!! I love it.
So Jacob and I started talking with some people, and even met a religious brother from an order that one of our friends (and a former RA of Jacob) has joined. Pretty cool! This really cool Father of Mercy, upon hearing that Jacob and I are married, enthusiastically gathered us under his arms and prayed over us. At another booth, there were stacks of free items, which the Assumptionist priest (or maybe he was a brother, can't remember) offered to us. There was a small, innocent-looking blue book that simply said "Prayers." I figured it'd be a good way to go.
Flash forward to a Holy Hour in the Port today. I figured that I'd open up this prayer book, and see what kinds of prayers were in there to meditate on. I discovered that this book was filled with brief, simple meditations of Emmanuel d'Alzon, the founder of the Assumptionist order.
Here's one quotation that struck me:
May your charity be enthusiastic:
(My thought: "Yup, I've got that covered. Enthusiasm...I love bouncing around, meeting random people and telling them about God, praying for them, etc. So, what's next?")
(My thought: "Yeah, I can be pretty bold-no hiding around for me, I try to confront people with the Truth in love. Nice reminder, but what else is there?")
Full of Initiative.
That's pretty much how it went. And I discovered how easy it can be to have charity for others: to love whoever God sends your way, to try to joyfully accept what God sends you (okay, it isn't always super easy, but it's doable eventually), to be bold and daring about loving others, but....full of initiative? That means I actually have to initiate charity. I have to go outside of myself and completely shower others with love without them doing anything for me first. It's a simple concept, but one that I can easily forget. Not going to lie, I can be self-centered at times, and wonder "how do I benefit?" (ie: Getting free candy from the Vocations Fair) "How does this possible event negatively impact me?" and those kinds of instances. God definitely was hitting me with a spiritual 2x4 of selflessness right there. I have to live charity that initiates--I have to take charge and love before other people can love me first--if I wait to love others until they extend kindness to me, my love is more limited--it is a love out of gratitude (not a bad thing) but it stops there. I need to love. Emmanuel d'Alzon furthered this thought with another prayer from this little booklet:
Who can say just how far the power of love might go, if it is You at work, stretching my heart?
God wants to stretch our hearts beyond the "capacity" that we assign to our hearts. I may say, "Well, God, I'll love this much--this person, that thing, etc. that's good for now." But what God really wants me to say is "Okay God, here I am--take my heart, stretch it, and expand it for Your work." This stretching is painful, and not easy, but becomes smoother if we let our will be supple in the Hands of God. We have to live for God, giving ourselves fully to Him in order to give ourselves for others.
Tonight, there was a marvelous speaker, Rocco Buttiglione, who spoke about giving a Christian witness in the world, specifically drawing from his experiences with a dear, long-term friend of his, Blessed John Paul II. Yup, this guy was personal friends with the Pope; had lunch with him, joked with him, the whole nine yards. Anyway, at the heart of this talk was the friendship that John Paul offered to humanity.
As Rocco Buttiglione described the giving, loving, personal friendship of JPII, he kept bringing it back to this: Friendship is belonging to others. Buttiglione pointed out that many people seek "freedom" by belonging to themselves. It's all about "my rights," "my freedoms," "my choice." However, he mentioned that by being "free," many people isolate themselves in deserts, away from others. "What is the use of freedom, if not to be given?" Buttiglione asked. Blessed John Paul II was a friend of humanity because he gave himself to others. Totus Tuus was his motto. As he gave himself totally to Jesus through the hands of Mary, JPII gave himself totally to others. He did not belong to himself; he belonged to all people--he was our Holy Father, guiding us and leading us to Christ. JPII was a man who loved with initiative, and continually let God stretch his heart. Buttiglione told us a story, about how JPII went to Africa, and Buttiglione's older sister was a reporter, on the same trip. Afterwards, she called her brother and said something like "I did not go on all of the trips that the pope did, and I am exhausted--you need to tell him to get rest!" Buttiglione, like a dutiful younger brother, had lunch with the pope and told him to get more rest. To which the pope responded, "Tired? Africa rejuvenate me!"
Not only must we love everyone that God brings into our path, and joyfully embrace the sufferings that He sends, but we need to love with initiative--instigating acts of love for others, physically going out to others who are often neglected (like nursing homes), praising others for accomplishments, and showing them God's joy...the methods are endless.
"May your charity be enthusiastic: bold, daring, full of initiative." ~Emmanuel d'Alzon