A rich man who helped Lazarus

07 March 2017

In his letter for Lent this year, Pope Francis invites us to be generous with the needy, stressing that this generosity should lead us not to give what is left over but to give of our very own. In this regard, the example set by Chuck Feeney, an 85-year-old man who donated all his possessions to charity, well represents the phrase: "He did not give the crumbs. He gave the whole bread."

Chuck came from a Catholic family that emigrated from Northern Ireland and settled in New Jersey, United States. His mother was a nurse and his father worked for an insurance company. He got his first job at the age of 10, selling Christmas cards door to door.

In his life he amassed an incredible fortune of about $8 billion, being the founder of the "duty free" shops at airports. His interest in the needy was a constant in his life which he expressed through philanthropic works.

Having secured the future of his children, he created the "Atlantic Philanthropies" Foundation in 1982. With his money he served causes ranging from health care to peacekeeping missions. In December 2016,  he donated the last $7 million that he had kept aside. "He says he's happy with himself after giving away all his money."

He currently lives with his wife in a modest apartment which he does not even own. His most valuable asset is a $15 plastic watch which is inseparable from the strap. For traveling he uses the subway, as they do not own a car.

There are more important things than money. They consist in the satisfaction that you have done something useful for people. "Getting rid of money has never been painful because I never felt attached to material wealth. I love to live as I do, knowing that through the work of the foundation we have done a lot of good to the good people who were waiting for it. Seeing the happiness of those people was a kind of reward. " - words of Chuck Feeney.

This is a testimony worth making widely known because while society and the media insist on presenting richness as the goal and a source of happiness and personal success, this man decided to choose to go against the tide and give everything he had to do good, helping people to be happier.

Chuck Feeney is far from the figure of the rich man who was blind and insensitive to the suffering of his brother Lazarus, and in the end, satisfied with a mediocre and selfish life.  “The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: "He feasted sumptuously every day”. In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.” (Message for Lent 2017)

This witness calls on the conscience of every Christian to think where true wealth is and where exactly his heart is, when it comes to sharing with those who have nothing. Do we really give or do we give only what is left over?

Before he died, Don Bosco asked Don Rua to take from his pockets the few coins he had and in this way showed his detachment from money: "look in my cassock pocket. Get the wallet and see if there is any money. I think there is nothing, but if there is, give it immediately to the Bursar. I want people to know that Don Bosco was born poor and died penniless"


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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