We live in a culture devoted to love – or do we? How many songs on the radio or movies are devoted to love stories, unrequited love, searching for love and exploring lust? But Catholics (should) know that true love has a divine origin, requires principled motives, and involves — most of all — an act of will.
Love is synonymous with charity, another term which has been diminished in contemporary culture. How sad that people assume charity is giving to someone in need (or to an organization devoted to helping a subset of creatures – one which might even qualify for a tax deduction). We’ve been defining love in all the wrong places!
Divine in origin
God is love. The Trinity is a communion of love, poured out to us. True love forms the divine bond that connects spouses, parents and children, and friends. Love is also the basis of authentic community.
As creatures who image The Creator we are capable of such love. As fallen creatures, subject to concupiscence as a result of the Fall, we get confused by selfish motives and by desiring lesser rather than higher-order goods.
Divine in end
We love God first, and we love others through that love of God. We bow to the divine, and reflect divine love when we love others in His Name.
Virtuous in motive
True love seeks the good of other first and foremost. Love is never self-seeking – not self-affirming, not self-pleasing, not self-fulfilling, not self-imaging. It’s so far from not being “all about me,” that it must be all about another.
Love is an act that starts in God, moves through another, and back to God. We must be entirely self-giving, and desire only the good of another in the process. The act of love is an act that glorifies God, and one that glorifies the best in us for the highest good of another.
Love is an act of will
True love is a rational moral choice, one that informs the will, and that leads to an act that lifts up another’s good, in the eyes of God. Our will mirrors God’s will, as we cooperate with Grace in loving another. “[T]hy will be done,” we recite in The Lord’s Prayer.
When you talk about love…
Be sure you act with true love, true charity when you use the word love. And when you hear the concept of “love” circulate in our contemporary culture, perhaps this checklist can help you discern if it is legitimate:
- Is God in the picture somewhere?
- Is the loving act merely a “feeling,” or is it an act of the will?
- Are you acting in a self-giving way?
- Do you have a clear idea of what the good of the other is, in this situation? Does that good lead to the ultimate good – communion with God?
These are the Catholic principles of love. Teach this virtue to your children and students. Try to model this in your actions. Ask God for help at every step in the process, and the Holy Spirit will guide you.
Pray the Act of Love (Charity):
O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. Amen.