St. Francis de Sales on two different motives for love of others

December 18, 2021 • 4 min

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 77
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley

UPON THE PURE LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR.

Our Blessed Father, in his Twelfth Conference, teaches how to love one’s neighbour, for whom his own love was so pure and so unfeigned.

We must look upon all the souls of men as resting in the Heart of our Saviour. Alas! they who regard their fellow-men in any other way run the risk of not loving them with purity, constancy, or impartiality. But beholding them in that divine resting place, who can do otherwise than love them, bear with them, and be patient with their imperfections? Who dare call them irritating or troublesome? Yes, my daughters, your neighbour is there in the Heart of the Saviour, and there so beloved and lovable that the Divine Lover dies for love of him.

A truly charitable love of our neighbour is a rarer thing than one would think. It is like the few particles of gold which are found on the shores of the Tagus, among masses of sand.

Hear what he says on this subject in the eighth of his Spiritual Conferences:

There are certain kinds of affection which appear very elevated and very perfect in the eyes of creatures, but which in the sight of God are of low degree and valueless. Such are all friendships based, not only on true charity, which is God, but only on natural inclinations and human motives.

On the other hand, there are friendships which in the eyes of the world appear mean and despicable, but which in the sight of God have every excellence, because they are built up in God, and for God, without admixture of human interests.

Now acts of charity which are performed for those whom we love in this way are truly noble in their nature, and are, indeed, perfect acts, inasmuch as they tend purely to God, while the services which we render to those whom we love from natural inclination are of far less merit. Generally speaking, we do these more for the sake of the great delight and satisfaction they cause us than for the love of God.

He goes on to say:

The former kind of friendship is likewise inferior to the latter in that it is not lasting. Its motive is so weak that when slighted or not responded to it easily grows cold, and finally disappears. Far otherwise that affection which has its foundation in God, and therefore a motive which above all others is solid and abiding.

Human affection is founded on the possession by the person we love of qualities which may be lost. It can, therefore, never be very secure. On the contrary, he who loves in God, and only in God, need fear no change, because God is always Himself.

Again, speaking on this subject, our Blessed Father says:

All the other bonds which link hearts one to another are of glass, or jet; but the chain of holy charity is of gold and diamonds.

In another place he remarks:

St. Catherine of Sienna illustrates the subject by means of a beautiful simile. “If,” she says, “you take a glass and fill it from a spring, and if while drinking from this glass you do not remove it from the spring, you may drink as much as you please without ever emptying the glass.” So it is with friendships: if we never withdraw them from their source they never dry up.

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