Love in the Catholic faith
In part one, we discussed the change in the meaning of “love” through liberal philosophy and the movement of “free love” that dominates western culture. But there is a way out of this: It starts with rediscovering the Catholic approach to love. In the Catholic faith, love is at the center. Christ himself declared the love of God and of one’s neighbor to be the main commandment (Mt 22, 37–40). The apostle Saint Paul also described it as one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5, 22). Furthermore, since ancient times, it has been considered one of the three theological virtues. Both in Scripture and in tradition, love is used over and over again as a characteristic of God. Therefore it is a requirement for Catholics. And, we find explanations in Catholic catechism.
For example, the Basel catechism explains: “We achieve a great love of God if we recognize His love and goodness from God’s works, if we live in virtue without sin, if we make sacrifices and suffer for God” and “Christian charity demands that we respect and love our neighbor, set a good example for him, help him in need.” One can see immediately there are numerous differences between the catholic and liberal notions of love. It is crucial that in the catholic faith love cannot be separated from good. God is love (1 Jn 4, 8) and God is good (Lk 18, 19). Love and good are two of His essential qualities.
Therefore St. Thomas Aquinas outlines this connection between love and good precisely: “As the philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 4), ‘to love is to wish good to someone’.” Hence the movement of love has a twofold tendency: towards the good which a man wishes to someone (to himself or to another) and towards that to which he wishes some good. Accordingly, “man has love of concupiscence towards the good that he wishes to another, and love of friendship towards him to whom he wishes good.” (ST I-II, q. 26, art. 4). The good, one can see in charity, is not subjective or relative, as liberal philosophy would say. It is rather something objective and universal and revealed in the divine and ecclesiastical commandments.
According to the catechism, charity reveals itself in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. These works make it clear that love and mercy do not mean allowing someone doing anything they want, just because they want it or believe it is or feels good for them. Ultimately, the purpose of the works of mercy is to save one’s own and one’s neighbor’s soul. Love is one of the most important aspects of the Catholic faith. Its enemies may still occupy it with a different definition, but it is absolutely crucial that Catholics win it back. But how?
We can bring people back to this definition of love: Through prayer for the virtue of charity, study of catholic doctrine on love and practical exercise of charity for one’s neighbor in everyday life. In this sense one can read the words of Christ, revealed to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, as an invitation to us:
“My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must needs spread them abroad by your means, and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition.”