Dear Father Angelo,
My name is Robert and I wanted a clarification on the relationship between divine providence and one’s independence. There are many people and some saints who, trusting our God Father, left everything to create great things. I won’t get into details. However, I wanted to ask if, considering how the average man of today is, could he do such things and, if he doesn’t, does it mean that he doesn’t trust in God’s providence? Let me explain myself better. I am fifty years old, I work earning a median salary, I have a family with two school aged children of 12 and 15. My wife has a part-time job and we have a 10-year mortgage. I try to live in the Lord, but I have an ordinary life. We need the money to live, to pay our expenses, and whatever is left over, I try to set aside for a possible supplementary pension for the future, so that I will be independent and I will not become a burden on my kids’ shoulders once I am older. Also, if it would be necessary, one day I could help them economically to buy a house, to start a family or a new business. In light of this, there isn’t much left to help the others. Which is something that I would like to do in greater measure.
The question is: does trying to be prudent or to “set aside” mean not trusting divine providence?
Trying to create something for the poor by giving everything up and telling to myself that by doing good deeds the money will come, but then fearing to go toward a failure, does this mean not trusting God? For a person who became a saint and did great things, I wonder how many others actually lost everything (not in spirit, obviously) without being able to push an important project forward and being forced to give up. Where is the right compromise?
- Saint Thomas says that the Lord gave us the intelligence so that we could provide for ourselves and our loved ones. The first charity must be done to those in our home. It seems to me that the relationship you have with your assets is right.
- The Sacred Scripture says: “ If any man have not cared of his own especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1Tm, 5,8). From here Saint Thomas concludes: “ Therefore charity regards those who are nearer to us before those who are better” (Summa Theologica, II-II, 26, 7 sed contra ).
- Each one of us is called to sanctity according to the needs of our own state. You cannot live like a Capuchin friar, because you are married and have a family. It is right that you think about providing for your kids, to leave for them useful possession for the family they will constitute and for their own children as well. So many times, one happens to be able to undertake certain studies or to be able to perfect oneself further thanks to assets left in heredity by the grandparents. Also this one is a sign of affection and love.
- However, together with this, I encourage you to give a lot of alms and to widen your generosity. Indeed, giving alms draw on you and your dearest ones many blessings from our Lord.
- I would like to show you some benefits. The first: giving alms benefits the atonement of our sins. Through the Sacred Scriptures God says: “As water quenches a flaming fire, so almsgiving atones for sins” (Sir 3, 30). In this regard, I would like to recall what Job used to do with his children: “ His sons used to take turns giving feasts, sending invitations to their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when each feast had run its course, Job would send for them and sanctify them, rising early and offering sacrifices for every one of them. For Job said, “ It may be that my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Job did this habitually” (Gb 1, 4-5). The first alm you can give is the celebration of the Holy Mass for them, their future and their sanctification.
- Furthermore, by giving alms you ingratiate yourself in front of the Lord: Hear again to what God says about the value of giving alms: “Whoever cares for the poor lends to the Lord” (Pr 19, 17) and “Those who give to the poor have no lack” (Pr 28,27). Therefore, although providing for your home like I said to you above, at the same time, insure for you and for you family the benevolence and the blessing of our Lord, Who gives back what has been given for Him always very widely.
- This episode regarding Cornelius can be read in the New Testament: “ Now in Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Cohort called Italica, devout and God-fearing along with his whole household, who used to give alms generously to the Jewish people and pray to God constantly. One afternoon about three o’clock, he saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and say to him, “Cornelius.” He looked intently at him and, seized with fear, said, “What is it, sir?” He said to him, “Your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God. Now send some men to Joppa and sumon one Simon who is called Peter” (At 10, 1-5).
- Peter will go to Cornelius’ home and here is the rest of the story: “Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” While he conversed with him, he went in and found many people gathered together and said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean. And that is why I came without objection when sent for. May I ask, then, why you summoned me?” Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, three o’ clock in the afternoon, I was at prayer in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling robes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your almsgiving remembered before God” (At 10, 24-31).
I wish for you the experience of Cornelius, so that you also, in the manner in which God disposes, introduce an Angel to tell you “ your prayer has been heard and your almsgiving remembered before God”. I wish the same for your children who will take the example from you. For this I bless you and I will remind the Lord of you.
November 9, 2019| A priest answers – Moral theology – Theological virtues