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What does Caritas Mean? (Prayer - Novena)

What does Caritas Mean? (Prayer - Novena)

One of our frequently asked questions is 'What does the word 'CARITAS' mean?' People also wonder about the symbolism behind the CARITAS For Children logo. Today's blog post seeks to answer both of these questions.  

Caritas is a Latin word meaning 'love.' As used in the Latin scriptures it simply means 'love', as in, Deus caritas est, 'God is love.'  1 John 4:8.  

Because of its derivation, the word caritas was associated with notions of dearness and preciousness.  In some versions of scripture, the word is translated into English as 'charity' or sometimes simply as 'God's love.'  St. Thomas Aquinas understood it to mean 'the friendship of man for God,' which he considered to be the most excellent of virtues, in accord with 1 Corinthians 13:13 ('..but the greatest of these is love').  

OAs for the logo, that shape embracing the purple heart is not only intended to evoke a stylized letter 'C,' but also the image of a chalice, the sort intended to hold the blood of Christ. Catholic liturgical use of the chalice symbol is, of course, meant to commemorate Christ's use of a chalice at the Last Supper. The word CARITAS forms the foundation of the chalice over the words For Children.


With regard to the purple heart, purple has long symbolized royalty and other high privilege.  The most famous dye in the ancient world was the exceedingly rare Tyrian purple, harvested by the Phoenecians from a shellfish found in the Mediterranean Sea.  The color of the robe in which the soldiers dressed Jesus in their mockery and abuse of him in Matthew 15:16 was therefore in no way coincidental.   

The purple heart encompassed by the chalice therefore designates Christ Jesus, the fulfillment of God's eternal love, Davidic King, Messiah and Savior of the World. si habuero omnem fidem ita ut montes transferam, caritatem autem non habuero, nihil sum.

...and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:2 (Douay Rheims Translation)