Presence of God – Fill my heart with Your spirit of generosity, O Lord, so that I may know how to give myself wholly to Your service.
Generosity is very similar to magnanimity but has a wider scope, including not only great things, but anything which concerns the service of God. It urges the soul to do all with the greatest devotion. Generosity is the virtue which teaches us to spend ourselves, without counting the cost, without ever saying, “It is enough”; it teaches us to give ourselves completely, and to work with the maximum of love, not only in great things but also in little ones, even the least. Only when we are not hampered by the bonds of selfishness can we be really generous, that is, capable of giving ourself wholly to the service of our ideal, to the accomplishment of our mission, without thinking of self, without letting ourself be detained by personal preoccupations. If we really understood that our vocation comes from God, and that He has prepared for us all the graces we need to correspond with it most perfectly, we should not allow ourselves to be disheartened by the sacrifices it requires. Selfishness, preoccupation with self, and discouragement are all enemies of generosity; they are “earth and lead” which weigh down our spiritual life, making it more fatiguing and keeping us from soaring to the heights. Why should we reduce ourselves to walking at “a hen’s pace” (Teresa of Jesus The Book of Her Life 13) when God has made us capable of flying like the eagle? St. Teresa laughs somewhat mischievously at those who are afraid of doing too much for God, and under pretext of prudence, measure their acts of virtue with a yardstick: “You need never fear that they will kill themselves; they are eminently reasonable folk! Their love is not yet ardent enough to overwhelm their reason. How I wish ours would make us dissatisfied with this habit of always serving God at a snail’s pace! As long as we do that we shall never get to the end of the road. Do you think that if we could get from one country to another in a week, it would be advisable to take a year over it?” (Interior Castle [also known as The Mansions] III, 2). The quickest way to reach our goal is generosity, which is the fruit of love and at the same time the generator of love.
“O Lord, how little we do for You! Indeed we cannot consider as signs of great virtue and mortification, these little acts which are of no weight or bulk, like grains of salt which a bird might carry in its beak. Sometimes we attribute importance to trifling things we do for You which, however numerous they may be, cannot be considered of much value. I am like that myself and I forget Your favors at every moment. I do not say that in Your great mercy, You do not value these little acts of virtue; but I have no wish to set store by them myself, or even to notice when I do them, since they are nothing.
“Forgive me, then, O Lord, and blame me not if I try to take comfort from anything I do, since I am of no real service to You: if I served You in great matters, I would set no store by these nothings. Blessed are they who serve You by great deeds! If merely envying them and desiring to imitate them counted in my favor, I should not be wanting in pleasing You! But I am of no worth, my Lord; do You put value into what I do since You have such love for me.
“O my God, grant that I may no longer be content with serving You in a small way, but let me do so to the greatest extent of my powers. Help me to make You a complete gift of my soul, emptying it of everything, so that You may take out and put in just what You like, as You would with something of Your own. You refuse to force our will, You take what we give You, but You do not give Yourself wholly until we give ourselves wholly to You. You like everything to be done in order, and You do not work within a soul unless it is wholly Yours, and keeps nothing back” (Teresa of Jesus The Book of Her Life 39: 20; Way of Perfection, 28).
“O most loving Word of God, teach me to be generous, to serve You as You deserve: to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any other reward save that of knowing that I do Your holy will” (St. Ignatius).
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Art for this post on generosity: St. Teresa of Avila, in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Cathedral of Caxias do Sul, Brazil, Pietro Stangherlin (1842-1912), photographed by Ricardo André Frantz, 2007, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.