Justice in Giving Alms

Our moral virtues come into play in our interaction with people. This is especially true of the four cardinal moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. These are social virtues, for they help us live in society.

St. Bernardine of Siena has this to say of justice in general: “Justice constitutes true nobility of soul; it gives to each one his due rank; it maintains respect to superiors, harmony with equals, lenity with inferiors. It requires of us obedience to God, purity within ourselves, patience towards enemies, and compassion for the unfortunate.”

One way of doing justice is to give alms to those in need. St. Francis of Assisi says of almsgiving: “Alms is a right and inheritance purchased for the poor by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St. Angela Merici adds: “Alms-deeds are a pious stratagem by means of which we may, so to say, purchase souls; they lay the poor under a kind of necessity to work out their salvation.” And she advises: “The surest means of salvation is to do each day of our lives what we should wish to have done at the hour of our death.”

And Bl. Hyacintha Mariscotti warns: “He who despises the poor despises Jesus Christ, and thus commits a crime against God Himself.”

Thus, St. Francis warns: “Everything man does here below passes away; but he will receive from the Lord the reward of his charity, and of the alms he has given.” Furthermore, “Man, not having many souls, but only one, ought to take so much the more care of it.”

On generosity in general, he teaches: “Generosity is one of the attributes of God, Who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon all, whether just or unjust, and ministers to all most lovingly the necessaries of life. Generosity is the sister of Charity; it destroys hatred and preserves love.”

Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).

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