Summary: The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Son of God, manifest the Divine Mercy that we can continue to show to the world during and even after our deaths.
Solemnity of the Annunciation 2013
Honoring the Incarnation with Estate Planning
It doesn’t feel like March 25, but for the Church, today is that day–the Solemnity of the Annunciation, our Festival of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Easter came very early this year, the second time in just five years for that unusual coincidence. So the Annunciation is moved to the first possible day after the string of Solemnities we just celebrated. It is not entirely clear why this feast is put on March 25, leaving Christmas to automatically fall on December 25, but it may be related to the ancient idea that great men died on the same calendar day they were conceived–the gift of God is taken away on the same day it is given. Moreover, March 25 always falls right after the Vernal equinox, the date that fixes the date of Passover and Easter. So it is a kind of natural center of the calendar, as the Incarnation of Jesus is the center of history.
The Council Fathers reminded us in Gaudium et Spes that “by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every human. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (Art 22) They went on: The Church knows “that man is constantly worked upon by God's spirit, and hence can never be altogether indifferent to the problems of religion. The experience of past ages proves this, as do numerous indications in our own times. For man will always yearn to know, at least in an obscure way, what is the meaning of his life, of his activity, of his death. The very presence of the Church recalls these problems to his mind. But only God, Who created man to His own image and ransomed him from sin, provides the most adequate answer to the questions, and this He does through what He has revealed in Christ His Son, Who became man. Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man. For by His incarnation the Father's Word assumed, and sanctified through His cross and resurrection, the whole of man, body and soul, and through that totality the whole of nature created by God for man's use.”
We have as a culture lost that sense of goal, or end, or telos, that the whole of nature is created by God for the use and stewardship of humans. The natural order is set in place and sustained by the hand of God, who created the whole thing so that we may be reminded of God’s existence and power and divine mercy, and use that natural order for His glory and for the greater good of our fellow humans. That is the practical meaning of the twin commandment to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Our highest calling is to devote our whole lives to that twin objective, and even to prolong our life of charity beyond this human life.
How can we do this? Those of us who have the means can order our estates toward the same objective as we order our lives. This is a very simple way to continue our positive impact on our culture. You don’t have to look outside your own family’s interests, but it is great if you do. For instance, we have ordered our estate so that it will support our grandchildren’s college education, but only if they choose a demonstrably Catholic school. In our case, that means a school that meets the criteria set by the Cardinal Newman Society for a truly Catholic school.
Beyond that, however, we can consider setting aside a good portion of our estates for the general support of such schools, or of seminaries, religious institutes, evangelical associations, charitable works like Food for the Poor or St. Vincent de Paul. We can establish a foundation with our families as directors, giving them the authority to make decisions on what Catholic charity to support.
The options are many, and should be discussed with qualified attorneys, accountants and financial consultants. Prayerfully look at the love God had for the world by the Incarnation of His Only Begotten Son, and prayerfully consider your response to that Divine Mercy. That mercy began with your incorporation into Christ at Baptism, when you were soaked with the compassion and forgiveness of God. It doesn’t have to end with your death.