Generosity is a virtue that makes us voluntarily sacrifice our personal interests to those of our neighbor, conformably to the example of Saint Paul, who said that he was "not seeking my own advantage but that of many so that they may be saved" (1 Corinthians 10:33).
This definition shows us that Generosity is not a common and ordinary virtue but a very noble one. In fact, the sacrifice with which it inspires us is performed freely, and the object of this sacrifice is something quite considerable.
It is freely done. A person is not generous when he gives to others only what belongs to them. Its object is something of considerable moment, for in general a person is not generous except insofar as he gives up his rights in favor of another and gives him more than he can demand. We can, therefore, consider Generosity as the most sublime of all sentiments, as the motive of all noble actions, and perhaps as the root of all great virtue.
Let us apply to a good teacher what we have been saying: it is easy to conclude from this application that Generosity is an attitude he needs and that it is proper to him even in a most sublime manner.
He makes a great sacrifice, one that is completely free, since he devotes himself willingly to something highly important for his neighbor, namely, the instruction of children, especially of poor children.
What is sublime about these sentiments? The better to instruct others, the Brother consecrates himself to God in a state where he renounces all earthly goods by the vow of poverty, the most legitimate pleasures by that of chastity, his own willwhich means his personalityby the vow of obedience. Is this not a true holocaust on his part, an admirable disposition, a heroic attitude?
Although he confers advantages of a well-nigh infinite importance on his neighbor, he is far from drawing any earthly benefits therefrom. His claim to glory is his perfect disinterestedness. What a beautiful act this is, motivated as it is by Generosity!
He devotes himself, not momentarily but for life, to a career that is no doubt most honorable in itself but also extremely laborious and tedious for nature and that far from appearing honorable in the eyes of men, seems to them, on the contrary, commonplace and lowly. Nevertheless, he considers it as the sole object worthy of his labors, of his continual application, of his cares and study; and what he proposes to himself is to make his students derive all the benefit from his efforts so that he can say to them with the Apostle, "I will most gladly spend and be spent for you" (2 Corinthians 12:15). How many virtues does Generosity not give rise to!
Let us further explain this matter of Generosity. It is said to be a sentiment as noble as magnanimity, as useful as beneficence, and as tender as humanity. But does not the Generosity of a good teacher possess all these traits?
It is as noble as magnanimity. It rises above injuries, which it never seeks to avenge except by doing good; above contradictions, tedium, boredom, and the effort required by almost constant laborin a word, above all that is most difficult, most irksomein order to bring up children properly.
It is as useful as beneficence, for it confers very notable benefits on the children with regard to both their souls and their bodies. For this purpose, it pours out on them continual care; it forms them to the Christian and social virtues; it teaches them very interesting things from which they can draw much benefit in leading good lives.
It is as tender as humanity. It seeks to make others happy, whether by instruction, by advice, or by good example. It procures for them all the helps it can; it takes pity on their weakness; it forearms them against evil habits; it makes them acquire good ones; it corrects their vicious inclinations, such as insolence, haughtiness, pride, exaggerated self-esteem, laziness, and stubbornness. It accustoms them to alleviate their sufferings by the solid consolations found only in religion, about which he is zealous enough to teach them. He puts up with their faults and corrects them only when they deserve it; he suggests to them the means of preserving themselves from this worlds corruption. He does all this out of the most affectionate charity in order to form them as Christians and as useful citizens for society.
Let us add that Generosity includes the sentiment of liberalitybut a wise and rational liberalityas becomes that of a good teacher. He should, indeed, give awards to his students to spur them on by emulation, to arouse them to do better and to avoid evil; but he should reward only true merit, with discernment, without partiality, and rarely; for if rewards became too frequent, they would lose all meaning; and even if they were in themselves worthy of consideration, before long the students would not take them much into account.
To acquire the virtue of Generosity, the teacher must prize his task. He must carry it out with affection, without neglecting anything. He should love to be of service to his neighbor and to do him all the good he can; multiplying his instructions and doing so with praiseworthy profusion, either in the general lessons or in the particular ones that he is sometimes in a position to give; this he should always do gratuitously, with no other motive than his neighbors benefit and Gods glory.
But he would fail against this virtue if he allowed himself too many comforts, under the pretext that teaching is so fatiguing or is affecting his health adversely; if he sought his own satisfaction rather than the progress of the students in their studies; if he failed to learn the things he needs to teach them about.
He would fail, again, if he kept for himself or gave to others rather than to his students the awards he might have received for them. He would also fail in this case against poverty, which forbids him to dispose of such things in this way.
He would fail, finally, if he accepted presents from his students, if he kept back something belonging to them, if he sought to win approval and praise or to be flattered.
I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15)