TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MONSEIGNEUR DE LA BOUILLERIE, Archbishop of Perga, Coadjutor of Bordeaux.
Second difficulty: to do it well. What does this mean ? I have taken care to cite you an example from the holy Gospel. I have invited you to copy this beautiful model of the Good Samaritan. What! is not that to do charity well ? Yes, doubtless, O Christian soul, if you are animated by the spirit of the Samaritan, that is, of Jesus Christ Himself, Who, under the veil of this parable, lets us perceive His own goodness, His own mercy. Charity well done is only Christian charity, and this in its turn is only supernatural charity. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this; the subtle and dangerous poison of enervating naturalism penetrates and invades us on every side. It even attacks the best things. People give in charity, but they do it nearly always in too human, too natural, a manner. They do it because our heart inclines us to it, because our position requires it; often, even, because it gratifies our little vanity. Charity well done is of a higher order. It has its source in God Himself. It resembles the eternal wisdom which touches at the same time the two extremities—God and the poor, which rises first to God in order to descend afterwards to the poor man. Yes, God first—to please Him, to glorify Him, to serve Him. Then the poor man, to raise his soul at the same time that we relieve his body, and in this truly deformed creature, whom vice too often disfigures more than do his rags, to make the image of God to shine. This is the work of true charity. As long as you do charity only with your alms, only with your zeal, only with your labours, you run a great risk of its being subject to a thousand imperfections. First do charity with God; it is then that it will be truly good.
Finally, the third difficulty: to persevere in the exercise of a charity which is well done. What is most desirable for that which is good, and what suits it best, is that it should last. The supreme happiness of heaven is the eternity of this happiness, and in the same way the real merit of virtue, and of all human work, is perseverance. Charity is towards the poor a mother, and it exercises in their behalf the august ministry of most tender maternity. But this ministry, you know it well, does not confine itself to a few days: it lasts as long as do the needs of the child. Now the families which charity adopts renew themselves incessantly.
We shall always have the poor with us. O charitable soul, you must then consent to be always their mother. And yet remark, I pray you, that if the exercise of charity demands long perseverance, its several acts are in themselves of an essentially transitory character. Each act of charity demands, in truth, two things—an impetus of the heart, and a sacrifice that one accepts. Alas ! the heart expands and it contracts; we accept the first sacrifice, and the second frightens us. To maintain always this expansion of the heart, and to sacrifice oneself every day, this is to persevere in the exercise of charity. O holy perseverance! O chief good, but also most arduous one, and for this cause the firmest support of our immortal hopes! He who perseveres in the Christian life will be saved. He who perseveres in the exercise of charity, it is to him, the Gospel tells us, that the Saviour addresses these words : "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess ye the kingdom."