Give freely from your wealth to alleviate the suffering of the poor; that is the easiest way to define the virtually unknown virtue of Munificence. A person truly practices Munificence when he/she uses his/her wealth to alleviate the suffering of the poor, while acknowledging the merit of poverty for oneself in regards to eternal life. Remember, you can’t take it with you!
As with the virtue of Magnanimity, with Munificence, intention matters. The primary purpose must be to alleviate the suffering of the poor; to address poverty. If the primary purpose for donating from one’s wealth was for a tax deduction, then the person would not be munificent, albeit generous.
As a society, we should be slapping ourselves in the face asking ourselves why munificence is 1) unknown within common vocabulary, and 2) why giving to the less fortunate is not as prevalent as we would like to see. Greed is a vice for which we have no room within our society. The well-being of all mankind should be our number one objective, in the name of Christ.
Jesus, an example of Munificence
Jesus is the best example of Munificence in action. Although He was poor Himself, He gives from the riches of His love and mercy to forgive sins, heal the sick, and feed the hungry. St. John Chrysostom says it better than I ever could:
No sin is so great that it can conquer the munificence of the Master. Even if one is a fornicator, or an adulterer… the power of the gift and the love of the Master are great enough to make all these sins disappear and to make the sinner shine more brightly than the rays of the sun…Did you see the abundance of His goodness? Did you see the munificence of His invitation? ‘Come to me,’ He says, ‘all you who labor and are burdened.’ His invitation is one of kindness. His goodness is beyond description. 1
From the vast wealth of Jesus’ limitless love and mercy, we the poor, have our suffering alleviated. Our poverty of spirit is replaced by His grace.
How Can We Become Munificent? Give!
From our own monetary wealth, we have the ability to alleviate the suffering of those less fortunate. Most of us are not Bill and Melinda Gates, with billions to donate for the benefit of those suffering in third world countries. Yet, we are all called to give from our surplus; to give until it hurts, so that we can better understand our fellow man’s plight. St. Francis de Sales, says it best:
Always dispose of a part of your means by giving freely alms to the poor, for you impoverish yourself by that which you give, and the more it is the more you are impoverished. Undoubtedly, God will restore it to you in this world as well as in the next, for nothing brings such prosperity as almsgiving, but meanwhile you will be the poorer for what you give. 2
I can personally attest to the truth of what St. Francis de Sales speaks of in this passage. Over a decade ago, while visiting a friend in Jacksonville, FL. I attended Sunday services with her at her Baptist church, and heard a sermon on tithing. It got me thinking about whether or not my husband and I should tithe. Lent was soon approaching. My husband and I took the plunge and began to tithe as our Lenten sacrifice. To this day, we still tithe, even in the hard times. God provides, for His munificence is limitless! Can you spare some money from your wealth and alleviate the suffering of the poor? Be munificent – Give!
1 Chrysostom, John. Daily Readings from the Writings of St. John Chrysostom. Anthony M. Coniaris, Editor. Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing Company. Pp. 4 and 17. Print. 1988.
2 de Sales, Francis. Philothea or an Introduction to the Devout Life. Charlotte: Tan Classics p. 168. Print. 2010.
Note: There will be no post published on Wednesday of this week, as I will be attending the Catholic Writers Guild conference in NJ. Post publication resumes on Monday of next week.