The most charitable act in the world

Larry Smith

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver designed a new logo, pictured above, that features an image of a crucifix once used on St. John Paul II’s staff. The design represents a renewal of the organization’s commitment to serve Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross.

A man at Samaritan House said recently that the homeless shelter helped him find a job by providing “a place to sleep, a place to shower, a place to get groomed for a job interview (and) a sack lunch to take” for the day.

That’s what we do at Catholic Charities.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us for all eternity.

That’s why we do it.

Serving Jesus Christ by serving others is at the heart of our many ministries.

At Samaritan House in downtown Denver, we put more than 350 people to bed each night, amounting to more than 125,000 nights of shelter a year. Our other shelters include St. Joseph’s Home for Veterans, Father Ed Judy House for women and children, The Mission in Fort Collins and Guadalupe Community Center in Greeley. We plan to open Holy Rosary Center for Women, a temporary shelter, in Denver.

Our shelters provide not just a place for those experiencing homelessness to sleep, but a way to get back on their feet, to regain their dignity, self-reliance and self-respect; to become contributors to society. And hopefully, to give back to others.

Our mission begins with Jesus Christ and that’s why our new Catholic Charities’ logo begins with the crucifix. The crucifix is the most charitable symbol in the world, because the ultimate charitable act is to give yourself completely for others, as Jesus Christ did.

I humbly ask you to join us in this service, however you feel called to participate. As Thanksgiving draws near, and then the Advent season that leads to Christmas, our hearts naturally open to the needs of others. Below are three things you can do right now. However you participate, it will be greatly appreciated by the people who need it the most.

Three things you can do right now:

Sign up to serve. Visit our volunteer portal here and see for yourself the many needs that exist in our areas of Family and Child Care Services, Women’s Services, and Housing and Shelter Services.

Buy an extra turkey and bring it to Samaritan House at 2301 Lawrence St. in Denver. Phone: 303-294-0241. Or, if you’d prefer to make a financial donation directly, click on the “Help the Homeless” banner atop our website at www.ccdenver.org.

Donate $100, $250, $500 or more to Catholic Charities on Colorado Gives Day Dec. 9. Better yet, go to www.ccdenver.org right now and click on the Colorado Gives Day banner to pre-set that donation.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese. Visit us online at www.ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.