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The Value of Small Things – Fr. Paul O’Sullivan

A solemn reminder of the consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds. But, on the flip side, to realize that every, even seemingly little, effort we make for the love of God, is used for our eternal welfare.

The widow’s mite

by Father Paul O’Sullivan, How to Be Happy, How to Be Holy


Many people are afraid of doing what is hard and difficult, but surely no one is so foolish and weak as to refuse to do what is easy and pleasant, when by doing so he can reap great and lasting benefits. No one hesitates to give a penny if in exchange he gets a pound; no one will refuse to dig a little in his garden if he is sure of finding there a great treasure.

Yet all of us have treasures within easy reach if only we know how and where to find them…

Few Christians know the extraordinary value of small things. Our Lord told St. Bridget and many others of His saints that our holiness and happiness consist in small things, even as the vast ocean consists of many little drops of water.

God may never ask us to do what is hard and heroic, but He does ask us every day to do countless simple and easy things. If we do these well—and nothing is easier—we shall soon attain to great holiness and also great happiness.

We shall now see: First, the malice of one bad thought or act and what awful chastisements it deserves.

Secondly, the value of one good act—great, or small—and the eternal rewards it merits.

Thirdly, we shall point out a hundred little acts that we can perform every day with the greatest ease and pleasure, which will obtain for us unspeakably great rewards if only we do them as we ought to.

The Malice of One Bad Act

It was one act that plunged millions and millions of God’s glorious angels into Hell for all eternity! One act! It was one act, apparently very small, viz., eating an apple, that has filled the world with sorrow and suffering for all these thousands of years and sent millions of men to Hell.

Had Adam and Eve not eaten that apple, they and we—that is, all the human race—would never have suffered the smallest pain!

Remark well, dear reader, that the punishment with which God visited these sins was not in any way excessive. God could never punish sin too much, never more than the sin by its awful malice fully deserved.

The punishment is what the malice of the sin demanded. Therefore, we see what awful malice one small act can have in itself and what terrible chastisements it brings with it.

Someone may be inclined to think that these two cases are exceptional. They are nothing of the kind. Millions of men and women are every day committing mortal sins, and millions of men and women like ourselves are falling into Hell, just as the fallen angels did.

A mortal sin may be a bad thought, a word, or an act done in a moment. Yet it has in itself dreadful malice. Venial sins, too, may be very grave, and because of their malice may be punished by long years in the fires of Purgatory. Yet people commit so many venial sins every day.

They shall have to give an account in the fires of Purgatory for each and every idle thought, word or act they may have committed, and they shall not leave these fires until they shall have paid the last farthing. These are the words of Our Lord Himself.


On the other hand, let us clearly understand that as every evil act, great or small, is in itself vicious and brings us such dire chastisement, so every good act has in itself an immense value and will bring with it a corresponding weight of glory in Heaven.

The Good Thief on the cross had led a life of great crime and wickedness, and confessed that he richly deserved the awful death of crucifixion, yet by one short act of sorrow: “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom,” he obtained full pardon for all his sins and merited to hear from Our Lord these wondrous words: “This day wilt thou be with Me in Paradise.” Moreover, he became a saint and is known as St. Dismas.

The Poor Publican, weighed down with the heavy burden of many and grievous sins, was so conscious of his guilt that he dared not approach the holy part of the Temple, but fell on his knees, struck his breast, bowed his head and said these few words: “God, have pity on me, a sinner.” By this simple act he received complete pardon for all his sins!

The Widow’s Mite

One day Our Blessed Lord was in the Temple on a feast day, and the princes of the people and the great and wealthy Jews came and cast rich alms into the treasury of the Temple. At last a poor widow came and cast her mite, all she could afford, into the alms-box.

Our Lord, who observed all that had passed, turned to His Apostles and said: “That poor woman has given more than all the rest.”

It is not the act—it is the intention of the giver that gives value to the action. Again, one may say that these are exceptional cases, but we answer, by no means. Similar rewards are being given every day for like small acts.

Any alms we give, no matter how small, and no matter to whom it is given, for love of God, will have a reward just as if we gave it to God Himself!

This He makes most abundantly clear, for He says: “When the good shall appear before Me, I will say to them: Come, ye blessed of My Father, take possession of the Kingdom prepared for you, for when I was hungry you gave Me to eat, when I was thirsty you gave Me to drink, when I was naked you clothed Me. “

And they will answer: “But Lord, we never had the happiness of seeing You, of giving You to eat, or to drink, or of clothing You.”

I will reply: “Every time you gave it to the least of My little ones, you gave it to Me.

I will say to the wicked: Begone, ye accursed of My Father, for when I was hungry you gave Me not to eat, when thirsty you gave Me not to drink, when naked you did not clothe Me.”

And they will say: But Lord, we never saw You on earth, we never refused to give You to eat, to give You to drink, to clothe You. And I will say: Each time you refused it to the least of My poor, you refused it to Me. Begone from Me forever.”

Even if we give a cup of cold water to a poor man in God’s name, we shall have an eternal reward. That, too, is Christ’s promise.

These promises are amply verified in the lives of the Saints, for many times when they gave alms to the poor, Our Lord revealed to them that He considered the alms as given to Himself.

St. Martin, when a soldier and not yet a Christian, once gave half his military cloak to a poor man, as he had nothing else with him at the moment to give. That night Our Lord appeared to him clad in the cloak and said: “Martin the Catechumen gave Me this cloak.”

Bl. Jordan of Saxony, a student in the University of Bologne, was once accosted by a beggar who asked him to give him something for the love of God. Jordan, who had nothing else at the moment to give, took off a most valuable girdle encrusted with precious stones which he wore, and gave it to the mendicant.

A few moments after he entered a church, and to his amazement, saw his girdle buckled around the waist of the figure of Christ on the Cross! Jordan became a great saint, the successor of St. Dominic as General of the Dominican Order, and one of the most zealous apostles of his time.

John Gualbert, a Florentine nobleman, pardoned a man who had murdered his brother because the murderer asked him to do so for the love of Jesus. Entering a church immediately afterwards, he knelt at the feet of the crucifix.

Our Lord looked at him with infinite sweetness and bowed His head most lovingly toward him. John, filled with divine grace, became a saint and a founder of a religious Order.

St. Anthony of the desert, when still a rich young man in the world, once heard a sermon with great attention. As a result of that sermon he became not only a saint, but the father and model of saints.

St. Ignatius became a saint by reading one good book.

Blessed Imelda became a saint by one Holy Communion.

Peter Damian, a poor boy, once found a silver coin, and not being able to discover its owner, asked the parish priest to say Mass for his intention. This was indeed, a brave act, the poor boy needed many things. So pleased was God with this act that Peter became a bishop, a cardinal, a saint and Doctor of the Church.

So we, too, can gain immense rewards by doing small things.

“Many times God allows it to be hard to pray, simply to school us in applying our wills, to teach us that the value of prayer does not depend on the amount of emotion we can whip up. So when ‘Time for prayers’ is greeted with moans and groans, it’s time to explain that saying prayers when you least want to, simply because you love God and have a kind of dry respect and a sense of obedience, is to gain the greatest merit for them. Many times the saints had trouble getting excited about prayers, but they said them, because prayers were due and their value had nothing to do with how eagerly they went about saying them.” -Mary Reed Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children (afflink)

On this Feast of Pentecost: “I consecrate myself entirely to You; invade me, take me, possess me wholly. Be the penetrating light which illumines my intellect, the gentle motion which attracts and directs my will, the supernatural energy which gives energy to my body. Complete in me Your work of sanctification and love. Make me pure, transparent, simple, true, free, peaceful, gentle, calm, serene even in suffering, and burning with charity toward God and my neighbor.” – Divine Intimacy

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