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

Donate $100, $250, $500 or more to Catholic Charities on Colorado Gives Day Dec. 9. Better yet, go to 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 or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”