Mother Teresa is the model for the virtue of magnanimity. Yet, my guess is that most of us know little about this noble virtue. So let’s start with a definition:
Magnanimity: The virtue which prompts one to do morally good acts of exceptional quality. Magnanimous persons are disposed to perform actions of extraordinary generosity, kindness, fortitude and charity; not in order to gain fame, glory or recognition, but simply to do what is right, good, just or needed. Magnanimous actions are usually only possible for those who, as a matter of habit and custom, practice the other virtues with great regularity and ease. Magnanimity supports and enhances Fortitude, and it is one of the highest forms of charitable self-sacrifice.1
The best, contemporary example of magnanimous behavior would be Blessed Mother Teresa. She lived and breathed the virtue of magnanimity by practicing all of the other virtues. She shunned fame, and lived amongst the poorest of the poor. She gave of herself solely for the benefit of alleviating poverty and suffering.
There is only one Blessed Mother Teresa. However, we are all called to embrace the virtue of magnanimity by being the best that we can be (in both simple and notable ways). We all have it in our power to be magnanimous. We need not be wealthy or famous to make a positive impact in the lives of others. We simply need to practice one of the greatest commandments, “to love thy neighbor as thy self” (Mark 12:31). We are called to give of ourselves in a self-sacrificial way to the needs of others, primarily for the benefit of others. We can do this by following the example of Blessed Mother Teresa. If we do so, we will be in good company, as she modeled her life after Jesus, “the Way and Truth and Life” (John 14:6).
In our next reflection, we will look at another saint’s life, and how he embraced magnanimity. Don’t miss it!
1 Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised Edition, Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Print, 1998, p. 643