Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Lent is certainly a time for seeking growth in the understanding of the mysteries of religion. It is certainly a time for seeking more knowledge. It is certainly a time for deepening faith. And Lent, this year, will certainly be a time when the feeding of the poor will be a matter of pressing and practical concern. And yet important as all this is, there is something so much greater, so much more vital, that lacking it, all the rest would be ineffective, and we ourselves would be spiritually dead. That one thing is, of course, Charity.
The Epistle explains what Charity is and enumerates its qualities. The Collect teaches us how to pray for it. So it is evident that whatever our aspirations may be for Lent, the one supreme aspiration must be growth in Charity. Whatever our rules may be, we shall share a common aim. We must grow in Charity. This was what all the Saints tried to do all their lives. They tried to grow perfect according to the Standard of Charity. This is what Christians of every variety of vocation will be trying to do this Lent. The Religious will be trying to do it in their Convents and Monasteries. The Faithful will be trying to do it in their Parish Churches. There will be extraordinary acts of devotion suited to various vocations. But the one common aim will be growth in Charity.
The word itself means the love which proceeds from God, to us, and then through us, first back to God, and secondly, out to those with whom we are bound in the whole bundle of life. Not merely our relations and friends, but everybody with whom we have contact. Charity does not mean sentiment, it means service. In the Epistle we read that Charity is Kind. The word translated into English as Kind, really means serviceable, useful. Kindness means being serviceable and useful. And I like to think, and I do not think that I am far mistaken, that our word kindness means behaviour toward others which is prompted by a sense of kin. It is the behaviour which is due to persons who are in some real sense our kinsfolk. They are kinsfolk because they are the kind of people we are. They have feelings which are quite as sensitive as our own. They have had ups and downs, about which they are reticent. They have needs and hopes and fears and memories, just as we have. All this and very much more makes the whole world akin. And it ought to make us kind.
Being religious means being kind. The word religion means related. It means being rightly bound with God and man. It is the same idea you see, bound by ties of kinship so broad as to be boundless kinship. It is a boundless kinship which demands boundless kindness.
But the word kindness in the original, we must remember means being useful, serviceable. The really kind person is the person who can always be depended upon, under all circumstances, in any emergency, to do the sensible, thoughtful, considerate, practical thing, in the right way, at the right time. Tactfulness means the unstudied behaviour which is the result of real contact. There is the same idea again. Contact is the touch of kin. Tactfulness is the evidence of contact.
Lent gives us our opportunity, because it gives us our Supreme example. Our Lord on the Cross.
Affectionately in Our Lord,