Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"The Rose - Love of Our Neighbor" XIV Kindheartedness

from The Catholic Girl's Guide, Benziger Brothers, copyright 1905

1. Kindheartedness - a beautiful, delightful word, a word which expresses one of the most pleasing qualities that anybody, and especially a young girl, can possess. You ought therefore to be kindhearted, and this signifies nothing else than that the fair rose of a real love of your neighbor should find a place in the wreath of flowers which adorns your youthful brow; this again means that you ought to practice as perfectly as possible the second great commandment of the law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

All men are comprised in the word "neighbor," but it refers more especially to your parents, your confessor, your friends, all the poor and afflicted, and also your enemies. You should show yourself to be kindhearted in regard to them all. I shall proceed to give you some practical suggestions upon this subject.

2. Shortly before He left the earth Our Lord said to His disciples: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." Thus we see that brotherly love and kindness of heart are characteristics of the followers of Christ. You must therefore be kindhearted if you wish to be reckoned among His followers; and if you possess this essential qualification, you will rejoice with the joyful, weep with the sorrowful, soothe miseries, relieve distresses, bear wrongs patiently and repay ingratitude with love. Thus will you most nearly resemble God, who is love and whose actions are always beneficient, and you will be universally beloved and regarded as an angel of peace. But, my daughter, you must be careful to expel from your heart all passion and selfishness, since only by so doing can you attain real kindness of heart.

3. Kindness of heart will render you courteous and polite in your intercourse with others, yet necessary prudence and circumspection must not be lost sight of.

The feminine heart is naturally tender and sympathetic, easily moved to take part in the sorrows and joys of others. In accordance with this natural disposition, and also as a disciple of Jesus Christ, the truly pious maiden is always gentle and loving. Tears fill her eyes at the mere recital of the afflictions of others, and when she perceives that those around are weeping, she mingles her tears with theirs. She is ever ready to console, to succor, to infuse sweetness into the bitter cup of life as far, at least, as it lies in her power to do all this. She reconciles those who are at enmity, she bears with the eccentric and faultfinding, and should all her kind efforts fail, she prefers to put up with everything rather than to indulge in wrangling and bitter complaints.

4. If you, being filled with this kindness of heart, engage in works of mercy, how rich a harvest will you reap one day! The recollection of the charitable actions you have performed will fill you with interior happiness, and thus you will have a reward more precious than all the riches and pleasures of this world. How delightful will it be to say to yourself: "I have dried the tears of many who were in affliction; by means of the small sums I was able to contribute, I have been instrumental in bringing many souls to the knowledge of the true faith and therefore to eternal salvation, and in delivering many a suffering soul from the flames of purgatory." Therefore it is written in the pages of Holy Scripture: "It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive."

5. The kindness you show to your neighbor will, moreover, encourage him to place more implicity confidence in God and to feel greater gratitude toward Him. It frequently happens that when anyone is visited with a succession of trials he becomes discouraged, and begins to lose his faith and his trust in divine providence. It is only the hand of a truly kind person, who has already succored him in his hour of need, that has power to draw him back from the abyss of despair; it is only the belief in kindness and sympathy that can avail to console him. The thought of all this kindness seems to whisper in his ear: "Take courage, God has not forsaken you. He has moved your friend to take pity on you and come to your assistance. He will find a way to succor you still further."

6. The good effect of this kindness of heart is strikingly shown in the following instance. A Protestant paid a visit upon a certain occasion to a large Paris hospital. Among the many unfortunate beings whom the institution always shelters within its walls there happened just then to be a sick man whose wretched plight was indescribably sad. Almost an idiot, ailing from his birth, a terrible and protracted disease had deprived him of both arms and legs. This pitiable creature appeared scarcely human. Mental deficiency and physical pain had rendered him so irritable that the slightest provocation caused him to break out into screams of rage.

The visitor was shocked at the spectacle, but his horror gave way speedily to amazement. He saw a Sister of Charity kneel down by the bed of the miserable creature and pay him every thoughtful attention. "Sister," exclaimed the stranger, "how can you be so cheerful while waiting on this repulsive object, the mere sight of whom fills me with horror?" "He is the one we love best in all the house," replied the Sister, "and because he is so dreadfully afflicted and naturally so repulsive, we all love him better than our other invalids."

This extreme charity and tenderness deeply impressed the Protestant. He entered into himself, and shortly afterward he became a child of that Church which possesses such power to inspire such unselfish devotion, such heroic sacrifice.

7. Strive therefore to be truly kindhearted. Help others in their necessities, for if you do you may confidently expect that God will not forget you in your time of need. The Royal Psalmist has said: "Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day." And Solomon teaches us in the Book of Proverbs: "He who confers benefits upon others will himself receive many, and he who gives much, to him shall much be given."

But what are all earthly gifts in comparison with the sweet celestial peace, the abundant grace, the eternal reward which will assuredly be the portion of the maiden who exercises this kindness of heart in its truest, highest sense! Listen to the Saviour's words: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." And again: "Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me."

He only acts a Christian part
Whose breast with love doth glow:
Rejoicing with the glad of heart,
Feeling with others' woe.

Once again, my child, I exhort you to strive after the attainment of this kindness of heart, and in the exercise of it you will become ever more and more like unto Himm, who is infinitely merciful, who is eternal charity. Strive to be like unto Jesus, who went about doing good to all.

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