Catholic Charities: Faith in Action

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The work of charity isn’t just a nice thing to do; it is, for Catholics, an essential expression of faith. Why is this so important? Because Jesus Himself said so, and the Church backs this up wholeheartedly. Through Catholic Charities, the Church puts its faith into action, heeding Jesus’ call to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, NABRE). This article explores the role and significance of Catholic Charities as a living testament to Catholic social teaching and as an avenue for individual Catholics to live out their faith.

The Scriptural Foundation of Charity

The idea that faith must be lived out in acts of charity isn’t a novel interpretation; it’s straight from the Bible. “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17, NABRE).

Jesus Himself explicitly states the importance of charity when He describes the Final Judgment. Those who serve “the least of these” are, by extension, serving Him (Matthew 25:31-46). It doesn’t get more explicit than that.

The Catechism and Charity

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also underscores the importance of charity as an essential part of Christian life. “Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it ‘governs, shapes and perfects all the means of sanctification'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 826).

Let’s break that down: charity isn’t just one way among many to be a good Catholic. It’s what “governs, shapes, and perfects” everything else we do. In other words, if we’re not engaged in acts of charity, we’re missing the point.

Catholic Charities as an Institutional Expression

It’s one thing for individual Catholics to donate to a food bank or help a neighbor; it’s another for the Church as an institution to do this systematically. This is where Catholic Charities comes in. It’s the arm of the Church in the United States dedicated to social service programs, helping over 10 million people each year regardless of their religious, social, or economic backgrounds.

The work of Catholic Charities isn’t just a practical way to put the faith into action; it’s also a means of evangelization. Pope Francis emphasizes this when he talks about going to the “peripheries.” Through acts of charity, the Church can reach people who might never set foot inside a church building.

The Works of Mercy

Catholic Charities practically involves itself in both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and so forth—are obvious. But spiritual works like counseling, addiction services, and education are also an integral part of what Catholic Charities does.

All of these are ways to live out the universal teaching of the Church on the necessity of charity. The Catechism says, “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447).

Some Points of Contention

It’s worth mentioning that not everyone agrees on how the Church should go about its charitable works. While it is a universal teaching that charity is necessary, how that charity is exercised can sometimes be a point of theological opinion. For instance, should the Church partner with governmental organizations if it means having to compromise on certain teachings?

The Catechism provides guidance but not necessarily a detailed roadmap: “Charitable organizations that are private or church-related have a proper role to play and should be given support, but they are supplementary to the role of the state, which has a primary responsibility” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2288). This leaves room for different viewpoints on how best to navigate these complex relationships.


Charity isn’t just “extra credit” for Catholics; it’s at the heart of who we are and what we believe. Through Catholic Charities, we have a systematic way to put our faith into action, adhering to both the explicit teachings of Jesus and the guidance of the Church. Whether it’s through feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or supporting a struggling family, every act of charity is a concrete way to live out our faith. “Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18, NABRE).

So when you support Catholic Charities, either by donating money or volunteering your time, remember that you’re not just doing good; you’re being a good Catholic. You’re answering Jesus’ call to see Him in “the least of these,” and you’re living out the Church’s universal teaching on the indispensable role of charity. Faith, after all, isn’t just about what we believe. It’s also about what we do.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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