CHARITY IN OUR THOUGHTS AND SENTIMENTS
Put ye on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy-(Col. iii. 12). The followers of Jesus Christ should be clothed, not only with Charity, but with the bowels of charity, so that in all their actions they should be clothed and encompassed around with Charity. They should love each one as if for each they had the tenderest affection. “Charity,” says St. Augustine, “does not grieve much even when she thinks well of the bad.”
To practise charity in thought, you must, in the first place, endeavour to banish all rash judgments, suspicions, and doubts. To entertain a rash doubt regarding another is a defect; to indulge a positive suspicion is a greater fault, and to judge with certamty without certain grounds that another has sinned is still more criminal before God. Whoever judges rashly of his neighbour shall be judged with severity. Judge not, that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge you shall be judge-(Matt. vii. 1). But although it is sinful to judge evil of others without certain grounds, still it is not a violation of the Divine law to suspect or even to judge evil of them when we have certain motives for such suspicions or judgments. However, the safest and most charitable rule is to think well of all, and to banish all such judgments and suspicions. Charity, says the Apostle, thinketh no evil -(1 Cor. xiii. 5). If by your office you are not charged with the correction of others, endeavour always to judge favourably of all. St. Jane Frances de Chantal used to say that “in our neighbour we should observe only what is good.” Should you sometimes through mistake praise in others what is censurable, you will never have reason to repent of your error. “Charity,” says St. Augustine, ” does not grieve much even when she thinks well of the bad.” St. Catharine of Bologna once said: ” I have lived for many years in religion, and have never thought ill of any of my sisters; because I know that a person who appears to be imperfect may be more dear to God than another whose conduct is much more exemplary.” Be careful, then, not to indulge in observing the defects and concerns of others, nor to imitate the example of those who go about asking what others say of them, and thus fill their minds with suspicions, and their hearts with bitterness and aversions. Listen not to them who tell you that others have spoken of your defects, and ask not from them the names of those who dispraised you. In such tales there is, in general, a great deal of exaggeration. Let your conduct be such as deserves praise from all, but regard not what is said of you. When told that anyone has charged you with a certain fault, let your answer be that others know you but little; and that, were they aware of all your defects, they would say a great deal more of you; or you may say that only God is to be your judge.
When our neighbour is visited with any infirmity, loss, or other calamity, charity obliges us to regret his misfortune at least with the superior will. I say with the superior will, for concupiscence always appears to take a certain delight in hearing that a calamity has befallen an enemy. But that delight is not culpable as long as it is resisted by the will. Whenever the inferior appetite solicits the will to rejoice at the misfortune of others, pay no more attention to its criminal solicitations than you would to a dog that barks without reason; but endeavour to excite in the superior will sentiments of regret at their distress. It is indeed sometimes lawful to rejoice at the good effects that are likely to result from the temporal afflictions of others. For example, it is not forbidden to be glad from a motive of his conversion, or of the cessation of scandal, that a notorious and ohstinate sinner has been visited with sickness. However, should he have offended us, the joy occasioned by his infirmity may be the fruit of passion as well as of zeal. “It may indeed often happen,” says St. Gregory, “that, without losing charity, we rejoice at: the ruin of an enemy; and that without incurring the guilt of envy we feel sorrow at his exaltation, when by his downfall we think that others will be justly exalted, and when we fear that by his prosperity many will be unjustly oppressed.”