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She's not peeking! Abigail Slattery organized the Marian Helpers Center's annual giving tree to benefit families at a women's shelter.

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By Terry Peloquin (Dec 23, 2018)
Every Advent at the Marian Helpers Center, we "adopt" a local family or families in need. Staff members purchase items the family has requested, as listed on wish cards placed on our Christmas giving tree. This year, the Center adopted multiple families from a women's shelter. These families requested the most basic of items, since many had to abruptly leave their homes and possessions behind.

Advent, as we said in part one of this series, is a time to spiritually prepare for Christ's arrival. Last week's reflection focused on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) as one of the forms of penance. By now you can guess that the next form we'll examine here is performing acts of charity.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins" (1434).

Among all the deeds of mercy, the Catechism says that "giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God" (2447).

In her Diary, St. Faustina recorded a beautiful lesson that shows just how pleasing this fraternal charity is to God.

Jesus came to the main entrance today, under the guise of a poor young man. This young man, emaciated, barefoot and bareheaded, and with his clothes in tatters, was frozen because the day was cold and rainy. He asked for something hot to eat. So I went to the kitchen, but found nothing there for the poor. But, after searching around for some time, I succeeded in finding some soup, which I reheated and into which I crumbled some bread, and I gave it to the poor young man, who ate it. As I was taking the bowl from him, he gave me to know that He was the Lord of heaven and earth. When I saw Him as He was, He vanished from my sight. When I went back in and reflected on what had happened at the gate, I heard these words in my soul: My daughter, the blessings of the poor who bless Me as they leave this gate have reached My ears. And your compassion, within the bounds of obedience, has pleased Me, and this is why I came down from My throne — to taste the fruits of your mercy (Diary, 1312).

She later writes:

I understand that mercy is manifold; one can do good always and everywhere and at all times. An ardent love of God sees all around itself constant opportunities to share itself through deed, word and prayer (Diary, 1313).

Always. Everywhere. Advent reminds us of what we are to be always. Saint Faustina would have us not just respond when there's an occasion to be merciful, but actively look for ways to be merciful. She offered this prayer for help in this regard:

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor (Diary, 163).

Now we've made it to the last Sunday of Advent, and Christmas is so close. This year you might not have time to organize a group gift as we did at the Marian Helpers Center. But you can still make a donation to a charitable organization (ahem). You can volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or visit a nursing home. Or offer to share your holiday celebration with people who may have no nearby friends or family of their own.

Make St. Faustina's prayer part of your last hours before the arrival of Christmas. Then look for occasions to reflect the mercy of God. Always.

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