Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/370

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ALMS 330 ALMS individuals as always fail to give alms or harshly repel mendicants indiscriminately are unquestionably guilty of grievous sin. Whoso is actually obliged to relieve extreme or pressing indigence must give what- ever is necessary to ameliorate existing conditions. It is not an easy matter to determine what amount must be given as ahns to those labouring under ordi- nary indigence. St. Alphonsus, whose view in this matter is shared by many modern moralists, holds that an outlay corresponding to two per cent of temporalities superfluous to social prestige suffices to satisfy the obligation, because were all concerned to adopt this metliod ordinary indigence could easily be remedied. At the same time it is not always practical to reduce problems depending so largely on moral appreciation to a mathematical basis (Lehm- kuhl, Theologia Moralis (Specialis), II, ii, no. 609). Fuitlicrmore, all either contributing spontaneously to public and private charities, or paying such taxes as are levied by civil legislation to support the in- digent satisfy this obligation to some extent (Lehm- kuhl, loc. cit., no. 606). Physicians, attorneys, artisans, are bound to render their services to the poor unless provision is made for them at public expense. The extent of services to be rendered and the character of the obligation binding thereunto depend on the kind of indigence and the incon- venience which such ministrations impose on phj-si- cians, attorneys, or artisans (Lehmkuhl, loc. cit., no. 609). Thougli the notion of almsgiving em- bodies the donation of commodities necessary to lighten human misery, moralists admit that it is sulficient to lend an object whose use alone serves to meet a neighbour's need (St. Alphonsus, op. cit., Ill, no. 31; Boiquillon. op. cit., no. 493). Moreover, common sense repudiates almsgiving to those in need simply because they will not labour to escape such need (St. Ambrose, De Officiis Ministrorum, XXX, no. 144). In addition to its innate char- acteristics, almsgiving should be vested with qualities tending to garner fruitfulness for giver and receiver. Hence, almsgiving should be discreet, so as to reach deserving individuals or families (II Thes., iii, 10; EcchiR., xii, 4); prompt, so as to warrant opportune- ness (Prov., iii, 28); secret and humble (Matt., vi, 2); cheerful (II Cor., ix, 7); abundant (Tob., iv, 9; St. Thomas, Summa Theol., II-II, Q. xxxii, art. 10). The harvest of blessings to be reaped by almsgiving a nply suffices to inspire noble-minded Christians "to make unto themselves friends of the Mammon of iniquity". First of all, almsgiving renders the donor like unto God Himself (Luke, vi, 30, 36); nay more, it renders God Himself debtor to those giving alms (Matt., xxv, 40 sqq.). Moreover, alms- giving adds special efficacy to prayer (Tob.. iv, 7), tends to appease divine wrath (Heb.,xiii, 10); liberates from sin and its pimishment (Ecclus., xxix), and thus paves the way to the gift of faith (Acts, x, 31). Daily experience proves that those lending a helping hand to stay the miseries of the poor frequently prepare the way for the moral reformation of many whose temporal misery pales before their spiritual wretchedness. Finally, almsgiving tends to guard society against turbulent passions whose fury is often cliecked by almsgiving. The various phases of almsgiving may be reduced to two chief classes: individual or transitory, and organized or perma- nent. Such cases of indigence as frequently fall under the eye of sympathetic observers constitute the subject-matter of transitory almsgiving. Though charity organizations have multiplied their sphere of usefuhiess, special ca,ses of indigence, more readily ami elTectually readied by individual attention, will always abound. Moreover, experience proves that the loiuliict and conversation of private benefactors frequently dispo.se their beneficiaries to reform tlT-'r wayward lives and become useful members of t!! Church and State. For this reason there will always be a wide field for individual almsgiving. At the same time, many worthy poor people are too sen- sitive to appeal to private persons, while many undeserving persons assume the rule of professional mendicants to extort aid from those whose sym- pathy is easily moved, and whose purse strings are loosened to answer every call. Moreover, how much better to forestall than to relieve indigence. To render the poor self-reliant and self-supporting is the noblest achievement of well-regulated charity. Sound religious and secular education, means and oppor- tunities for labour, more than almsgiving will facil- itate the realization of this lofty object. This is why various organizations have been established to alleviate the different forms of corporal misery. To the Church belongs the credit of taking the initiative in promoting systematized effort for the welfare of the needy. So abundantly have her labours been blessed that her success has evoked the admiration of her sworn enemies (Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, tr., 18). The history of yester- day and the experience of to-day prove that the Church is still the poor man's friend. C)rganized charit} is fvirthered by the concerted action of per- sons in their private capacity or by the official pro- ceeding of those whose position binds them to .seek the temporal well-being of all classes in society. The various corners of the globe are studded with institutions of divers kinds, reared and maintained by the generosity of private parties. Human misery in its various stages, from the cradle to the grave, finds therein a haven of consolation and rest, while the prayers of inmates, legion in number, call the blessing of Him who is the Father of the poor, upon the heads of those whose liberality proves that the charity of the brotherhood defies limitation. Though admirable and far-reaching in its influence, privately organized charity is incapable of effectually coping with the divers forms of misery. This is why civil governments shape their legislation to make provision for such subjects as fail in their efforts in the struggle for existence. Various institutions des- tined to provide for needy citizens of every class are conducted under State patronage. Directors are ap- pointed, attendants installed, visiting and inspection required, reports submitted, and appropriations an- nually made to meet the exigencies of such institu- tions. Encouragement and opportunity are not denied those disposed to ambition, self-respect, and self-support. Noteworthy indeed are the asso- ciated charities inaugurated by the government to promote organized charity. Throughout cities, bu- reaus are established, and officials deputed, to examine the actual condition of mendicants, so as to dis- criminate between worthy and unworthy appeals. To this end friendly visiting is encouraged. Prose- letyzing is discomitenanccd, .so much so that in many localities Catholics and non-Catholics join hands in the work of organized charity. Movements along these lines are to be found in England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Canada. Those best qialified to speak authoritatively in this matter are eloqient in their expression of the good feeling between Catholic and non-Catholic workers, and equally eloquent in summarizing the admirable results attained through this union of forces. These movements represent the culmination of noblest effort to concrete almsgiving in its fulness, so that gi'ers themselves may share in affection, sympathy, and thoight with receivei-s, thereby animating almsgiving with a human, nay, more, a Divine element, tending to ennoble the poor in healing their miseiy. Scripture: — Exoiius, xxii, 25; Lev., xix. 9sq.; Dent., xiv, 28 F".; XV. 11; Tobias, iv. 7; Prov., xi, 2f.: xxv, 21; Kccliis., iv, I .«n.; Is., Iviii, 7; Ezech., xvi, 40; xviii. 7 so.; Dan., iv, 24; HlMtl.. xxv, ,'54 .■.q.; I.uke, iii, 11; Arts, iv, .'12; 11 Cor., viii, 13 sq.: ix. aq.; I Tim., vi, 17 sq.; Jas., ii, 13; 1 John. iii. 17. I