The struggles between Christians and the Donatist sect had become violent, and two Donatists had died, whom the Donatists called martyrs. St. Optatus of Milevis says they cannot be called martyrs, because they had abandoned charity, the one virtue without which not even communion with angels will do us any good.
Those men you call martyrs refused to recognize their brethren, and had no charity.
And don’t say in their excuse that they were unwilling to hold communion with Betrayers, since it has been most clearly proved that they themselves were the sons of Betrayers. Therefore you have no way of excusing them, for it is quite obvious that they had no charity, without which we can’t call what they did mar- tyrdom. Martyrdom can’t exist without charity. Without charity, the very great- est and most commanding virtue loses its effect; without it, the knowledge of all tongues is worthless; without it, even the fellowship of angels is of no use—as says the Apostle Paul:
“If I have the power of commanding mountains so as to move them from place to place, and if I speak with the tongues of all nations, even of angels, and if I deliver my body to the flames, and have no charity in me, I am nothing. I am like tinkling brass in the desert, so that the effect of my word will die away there, where there is no one to hear.” (a paraphrase of 1 Cor. 13:1-3)
If someone as great as the blessed Paul, the Vessel of Election, declares that,
even if he has commanding virtue and the company of angels, he is nothing with- out charity, then consider whether those people should not be called something very different from martyrs, who, having deserted charity, may perhaps, because of that desertion, have suffered something. –St. Optatus of Milevis, Against the Donatists, Book 3
Where am I most lacking in charity? Have I tried to reach up to the angels without first being more charitable to the people I’m tempted to condemn?
Lord, help me to heed the promptings of the guardian angels of people I find difficult— people who challenge me, people who oppose me. May the angels ensure that my dealings are always marked by supernatural charity.
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