A Year with the Saints – 27 November


It is not enough to have love for our neighbor – we should notice of what sort it is, and whether it is true. If we love our neighbor because he does us good, that is, because he loves us, and brings us some advantage, honor, or pleasure, that is what we call a love of complacency, and is common to us with the animals. If we love him for any good that we see in him, that is, on account of beauty, style, amiability or attractiveness, this is love of friendship, which we share with the heathens. Therefore, neither of these is a true love, and they are of no merit, because purely natural and of short duration, being founded upon motives which often cease to exist. In fact, if we love anyone because he is virtuous, or handsome, or our friend, what will become of this love if he should cease to be virtuous, or handsome, or to love us, or, still worse, if he should become our enemy? When the foundation upon which our love rested, sinks, how can it support itself! The true love which alone is meritorious and lasting is that which arises from the charity which leads us to love our neighbor in God and for God; that is, because it pleases God, or because he is dear to God, or because God dwells in him, or that it may be so. There is, however, no harm in loving him also for any honorable reason, provided that we love him more for God’s sake than for any other cause. Yet the less mixture our love has of other motives, the purer and more perfect it will be. Nor does this hinder us from loving some, such as our parents and benefactors, or the virtuous, more than others, when such preference does not arise from the greater good they do to us, but from the greater resemblance they have to God, or because God wills it. Oh how rare is the love of this sort, which deserves to be called true love! Love not according to the flesh, but according to the Holy Spirit. – Saint Francis de Sales

For this reason, he entertained great love and universal respect for all his neighbors – because he saw God in them, and them in God; and this made him very exact in all the duties of courtesy, in which he was never known to fail towards anyone. He felt, indeed, great tenderness for his friends; but because he loved them with relation to God, he was always ready to deprive himself of them. Writing to the Superioress of a convent, he gave her this warning: “Hold the balance evenly among your daughters, that their natural gifts may not cause you to divide your affection and your good offices unjustly. How many persons are there exteriorly polished, who are very pleasing in the eyes of God? Beauty, grace, agreeable conversation and manners, suit the taste of those who still live according to their inclinations. Charity regards true virtues and beauty of soul, and diffuses itself over all without partiality.”

Saint Vincent de Paul made it one of his chief practices to regard God alone in all men, and to honor in them the divine perfections; and from this most pure sentiment there sprang up in his heart a respectful love for all, and especially for ecclesiastics, in whom he most clearly recognized the image of the power and holiness of the Creator. Therefore, he charged his missionaries to love and honor them all, and never to say anything but good of them, especially in preaching to the people. He provided for their needs with particular care, as he was unwilling to see the dignity of the priesthood lowered in their persons.

Among the acts of charity which Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi resolved to perform was this – that she would reverence and love creatures only because God loves them, and that she would rejoice in the love He bears them, and the perfections He communicates to them. At the point of death, she said that though she had borne great love to all her Sisters, she had loved them only in fulfillment of the precept of love left us by Jesus Christ, and because He had loved them so much, and that outside of this, she had never had the slightest attachment to any creature.

MLA Citation