Honors English 10; 4P
3 December 2013
I abide by the Honor Code
“Peace is the work of justice indirectly, in so far as justice removes the obstacles to peace; but it is the work of charity directly, since charity, according to its very notion, causes peace.”
- St. Thomas Aquinas
Charity is the kindly or sympathetic disposition to aid the needy as a result of deep feeling or understanding. Charity exists in many different forms. It can be seen in the forms of helping the poor, those who have disabilities, and efforts for a cure to disease. People often neglect charity from their daily lives, but there is always someone in need. There is no financial gain; instead, a feeling of self-worth and respect is produced. Timothy 5:8 states, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. This verse argues that charity begins within the home and neighborhood. Charity within one’s neighborhood is seen as a major theme in Les Miserables and The Holy Bible. If everyone were to be involved in charitable works, the world would become a united and virtuous place filled with endless compassion.
Les Miserables, although it is fiction, is one of the best sources to use when defining what is and isn’t charity. Not only that, Hugo also defines what a person and society in need of charity is. For example, Hugo describes the Thenardiers, "Undoubtedly seemed very depraved, very corrupt, very vile, very hateful even, but people rarely fall without becoming degraded. Besides, there is a point when the unfortunate and the infamous are associated and confused in a word, a mortal word, les miserables; whose fault is it? And then, when the fall is furthest, is that not when charity should be greatest?" (Hugo 744). When Hugo says this, he declares that rarely is anyone very vile, depraved or hateful for no reason. People who are vile, depraved, or hateful are usually so because someone else was vile to them in the past. Hugo asks society whose fault misery really is. Perhaps, the evil seen in society is a consequence of their actions, of their lack of charity or love, or of their "vileness" towards people. In order to demolish “vileness” towards people, society needs to give back to their community, help the less fortunate, and show the unloved compassion. Hugo explains how the absence of charity is a major benefactor to a corrupt community. One of the characters in Les Miserables stands out from all others due to his charity and compassion. Monseigneur Bienvenue, being the compassionate man he is, gave Jean Valjean shelter and food, but in return was robbed by Valjean. Upon the arrival of guards with the arrested Valjean, Bienvenue responded, “ So here you are! I’m delighted to see you. Had you forgotten that I gave you the candlesticks as well? They’re silver like the rest, and worth a good two hundred francs. Did you forget to take them?” (Hugo 110). Monseigneur Bienvenue is a charitable man with a deep compassion for Jean Valjean as he gives him, the thief, the finest of his possessions. Monseigneur saves Valjean from imprisonment. This passage demonstrates the lack of interest the bishop holds for materialistic items, such as money, for he had given up all of his possessions. The Bible explains Bienvenue’s stance towards money in the passage, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Prior to this event, Valjean was cold hearted and infuriated with everyone, but the bishop changed his heart. Valjean discovered that he needed to change his ways, become and honest man, and begin a new life. Without Monseigneur’s generous act, Valjean wouldn’t have transformed into the charitable man who showed deep compassion for Fantine and Cosette. As seen here, charity has a domino effect. If society would learn this lesson of...
Cited: Catechism of the Catholic Church. Liguori, MO: Liguori Publications, 1994. Print.
Compendium, Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington, D.C.: United States Conference
of Catholic Bishops, 2006. Print.
Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. New York: Modern Library, 1980. Print.
Aquinas, Thomas. The Aquinas Catechism: A Simple Explanation of the Catholic Faith by the Church 's
Greatest Theologian. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 2000. Print.
The New English Bible. NY: Oxford University Press, 1972.
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