Posted by Ronan Scully in Features.

In life it is faith that starts us off, but it is charity that keeps us going in any undertaking in life. Little acts of charity can awaken lifegiving confidence in yourself and in others. Charity can be enacted in many ways, such as giving food and clothes to the needy, cheerful care of the sick, a warm greeting or smile to the people that you meet or even listening to a friend’s worries. As the saying goes, ‘Charity sees the need not the cause’. Two very different people, Fr Maximilian Kolbe and Terry Fox, enacted the term in its most challenging meaning.

Father Maximilian Kolbe

Fr Maximilian Kolbe as shipped to Auschwitz concentration camp as part of the Nazi invasion in WWII. In spite of the inhuman conditions, and the indignities and cruelness of camp life, he continued to carry out his priestly work.

In 1941, a prisoner escaped from his block. The penalty for escape was death by slow starvation of ten men from the same block. The next day all the men from Fr Kolbe’s block had to stand to attention in the boiling sun. The Nazi officer announced, “The fugitive has not been found; so ten of you will die in the starvation cell.” He then began to select the men. At random the condemned were ordered to step forward. It was heartbreaking. One of the victims began to sob and started to cry, “My poor wife and children, I will never see them again.” Suddenly a man stepped forward and walked towards the Nazi officer. “Stop!” shouted the officer. “What do you want?” Softly, Fr Kilbe said “I want to die in place of that father. I beg you to accept my offer of my life for his.”

There was a moment of silence. The Nazi officer was so dumbfounded he did not speak. He finally accepted Fr Kilbe’s offer and prisoner 16670 stepped up to join the ranks of the condemned.

Terry Fox

Another person who enacted life-giving charity during his life was Terry Fox. At the age of 22, he undertook a strenuous Marathon of Hope around Canada to raise funds for cancer research. What made his run so special was that Terry came up with the idea for the marathon after being diagnosed with a fare form of bone cancer in 1977 which required him to have most of one leg amputated. After months of training, he began his run at St John’s BC in Thunder Bay on 12th of April 1980. At first his story was given a few lines on the back pages of Canadian newspapers but by the time he had finished, he had inspired millions of people all over the world, helping to raise $24.7m for research.

Although he was dying, Terry found the strength to do something positive and charitable for people in need. Alive with hope, he made his last year on each a meaningful adventure. He died a national hero on 28th of June 1981.

Richard Donovan and Kevin Thornton

Closer to home, two other people are presently enacting charity in their given sports and with their expert talents.

Richard Donovan is currently running 3,100 miles across America to raise funds for his friend and fellow ultra runner Alvin Matthews. Alvin fell 25 feet from a roof last year and is now paralysed from the waist down. Funds raised will go towards Alvin’s medical bills, special bionic legs, a custom wheelchair and renovations to his home to make it wheelchair friendly. Go to for details on how to donate to Richard’s Trans North America Run.

Kevin Thornton, along with family and friends, recently swam across Galway Bay from Fanore in Co. Clare to Blackrock in Salthill for the tenth year in a row to raise funds for Cancer Care West in memory of their mother Frances Thornton. Go to for details on how to donate to this worthy cause.

We have countless others in Galway and Ireland who use their talents and abilities to show acts of genuine charity and kindness for their fellow human beings. It would be nice to see more of that news, of people helping people and supporting genuine charity causes in the national media at times instead of all the negativity we see.

The doer of deeds

US President Theodore Roosevelt said “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Thought for the week

As your thought for this week, see what act of charity you can do or give to someone that might need it most.