The notion that one can help others without first helping himself is absurd. More precisely, the distracted and slothful man, even if he seems charitable and zealous, cannot properly serve his neighbor while ignoring his own vices and imperfections.
Whether you're working on a clever Facebook post condemning your gay cousin's disordered lifestyle or evangelizing an atheist friend, you must always prioritize your own spiritual life.
Our Lord tells us:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye (Matthew 7:3–5).
Wayward cousins and friends certainly need to be converted, but never to the detriment of your own interior life; don't fixate on your neighbor's sins while neglecting your own. The desire for the salvation of others is necessary, but as Jean-Baptiste Chautard writes in The Soul of the Apostolate, "Each one must first offer his own soul."
Because Our Lord's prohibition on disordered judgment is often abused due to misunderstanding, it needs to be unpacked.
But while reproving the sinner is surely a spiritual work of mercy, sin on the part of the one correcting can prove to be a hindrance.
St. Augustine of Hippo writes:
When we have to find fault with anyone, we should think whether we were ever guilty of his sin. And then we must remember that we are men and might have been guilty of it, or that we once had it on our conscience but have it no longer. And then we should bethink ourselves that we are all weak, in order that our reproof may be the outcome, not of hatred, but of pity.
Ignoring this humble and truly charitable approach, there are those who are driven by pride in their "fraternal" correction. Saint John Chrysostom says to these people, "What you want is not to save others but to hide your evil deeds with good teaching and to seek to be praised by men for your knowledge."
The Christian is indeed called to perform selfless acts to help others, but he must first get his own life in order. To sum up this somewhat paradoxical principle: Focus on yourself before others!
To make a similar point on a much broader level, it's absurd to think that society will flourish while the family does not.
The family or, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the "original cell of social life" is what makes up communities and societies. As cells are the basic building blocks of all living things, the family is the basic building block of any civilization.
In short, if the family is not virtuous, society will not be virtuous.
Any political leader, therefore, should do everything in his power to promote and protect the family, for the true success of a society (i.e., the common good) relies on the stability of family life. Conversely, true success for the family (i.e., the sanctification of its members) does not depend on the political sphere. The family does not necessarily need the State, but the State definitely needs the family.
The family, which has its roots in the sacrament of matrimony, is rightly called by the Catechism the "domestic church."
"The home is the first seminary," writes Dr. G.C. Dilsaver in The Three Marks of Manhood, "and the familial father is the primary role model for the future reverend father."
The traditional family, with the father as the spiritual head and the mother as the spiritual heart, is the cure for the morally collapsed Western world.
In this Christian order, the husband dutifully embraces his role as leader, protector and provider. Likewise, the wife lovingly accepts her maternal role in the home.
On a more practical level, the Catechism of the Council of Trent pierces deeper into this familial unit, teaching that the husband is "to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals" while the wife is to "train their children in the practice of virtue."
This God-ordained structure is not only the remedy for a spiritually dead political system, but it's also the antidote for a spiritually dead hierarchy in the Church.
Corrupt politicians and bishops, who care nothing for the common good of society or the salvation of their people, often come from homes where the fathers failed to correct their morals and mothers failed to teach them virtue.
Heroic politicians and holy clergymen will come from traditional families in the third millennium. And St. Paul reminds us of this truth in his first letter to Timothy when he rhetorically asks, "If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's Church?"
To dive deeper into this topic, go Premium and watch this week's Mic'd Up, where David Gordon interviews Thomistic psychologist and author Dr. G.C. Dilsaver.