“Ask a Priest: How Can I Be Noble and Generous in Spirit?”

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Q: Can you help me understand the virtue of magnanimity? Is this a virtue we can actually work on? Kind regards. –C.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Magnanimity refers to a person’s ability to do great things without being concerned about praise or thanks. The key to this virtue is humility, to do great things (which could in practice be little acts of charity) without seeking yourself or your own aggrandizement.

In spiritual terms, it means to do everything simply for the love and glory of God and for others.

There are probably various ways to approach the practice of this. Here are a few quick suggestions.

First, treat everyone as you would Christ himself. This includes the neighbor who annoys you, the co-worker who tests your patience, the relative who seems like a thorn in the side. By treating everyone well, you purify your motives. You do it not for what it will bring you, but because it is the kind of charity that Christ invites us to practice.

Second, learn to give all your successes back to God. Thank him for the good things that happen to you. And when you get a compliment, treat it like a hot potato. Give God the glory (“It was the Holy Spirit who made that a success …”), or pass on the compliment to others (“Miss Smith was really the driving force behind the project”). Do all that, and little by little you live more in God’s presence and do things solely for him. (For more reading see Donald DeMarco’s article.)

Third, don’t shy away from a “great” idea that might come to mind, such as pursuing a priestly or consecrated vocation or starting a new apostolate. That great idea could be an inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

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