The Objects of Knowledge

Father Cassilly writes: “Blessed, then, be the Eternal Goodness of God, which has given to men the power to know and love. But knowing and loving are impossible without an object to rest in. The most perfect eye would be useless, if there were nothing to see. We should, in fact, never know that we had the sense of sight, if we lived in impenetrable darkness, or even in the brightest light which illumined no body. And if there were no sounds about us, we should live in a world of silence.”

“And what is it God has given us to know and love? The objects of these actions are endless. We can know truth and love goodness wherever they be found. And they lie all about us in objects innumerable as the leaves in the forests. The manifestations of truth, beauty and goodness are so limitless that the sons of men, from creation’s dawn to the present time, with all their accumulated wisdom, keenness of observation and study, have never exhausted them.”

“Beginning with self, we can proceed outward to creatures, in all of which there are vestiges of the Creator. We can contemplate the law, order and harmony that are visible in them as transient reflections from the great source of all harmony and beauty. So marvelous in number and variety are the rivers of truth, flowing from the eternal well-springs of Being, that every day new sciences and new developments of the older knowledge are required to explore them.”

“And with all our boasted knowledge and wisdom we are, as it were, only scratching the surface of things. But at times, alas! so hypnotized are we by created beauty that we seek it for itself and rest in it, as though it were the end and aim of our existence, forgetting that it is intended merely to be placed under our feet, as a stepping stone, to enable us to rise to Eternal Truth and Beauty that will endure forever. These are some of the beautiful things that God gives us in our journey through life.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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How We Know and Love

Father Cassilly elaborates on the implications of knowing and loving. He writes: “Of all material creation only man can say, ‘I am, I know.’ . . . The animals about us, with their sentient existence and powers, can never singly nor collectively say, or even know intelligently that they exist. . . . Whatever it does for itself is done by a mere instinctive perception; it does not, cannot consciously guide itself to any end, aim or object. Whatever purpose then it serves is placed in it from without, and for some end extrinsic to and beyond itself and its own good. . . . It acquires a reason for its being only in so far as this helps or furthers the existence of something else. It has only sensitive perception, it knows in a sentient way, but it cannot know explicitly that it knows, which is the real test of intelligence and consequent spirituality. Man, on the contrary, answers to this supreme test, for he knows, and he knows that he knows, he is and he knows that he is.”

“And flowing necessarily from man’s attribute of consciousness, is that other God-given power of loving. Love is the child of perception. Intelligent being created or increate in perceiving the true must also perceive the good, for whatever is true is good; and as its nature is to know truth so also it has a natural propensity to love or embrace what is good.”

“The law of love is based on the nature and essence of God. He loves Himself, and with a necessary, infinite love. He cannot do otherwise. . . . As He is Love, so His intelligent creatures, the angelic hosts in heaven and men on earth, in imitation of Him possess this Godlike attribute.”

“Even in the lower creation, in the animal, vegetable and inorganic kingdoms, everywhere there is some faint adumbration or analogy of love. For, each animal and plant, each atom or molecule must seek its own, work for itself, tend to its own conservation and the exercise of its own energy. . . . This truth is so evident that men have embodied it in the proverb, ‘self-preservation is the first law of nature.’ . . . So tenacious indeed are bodies of existence that, though we may change their form and shape, it is impossible for us to reduce them to nothingness, and this fact scientists recognize in the principle they have formulated that matter is indestructible. And so it is, except by the Almighty will that brought it into being.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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God’s Love Bursting Forth

Father Cassilly continues his enumeration of God’s gifts to us. He writes: “Infinite Love was not content to rest in self. It must body forth created beings, manifestations of itself, to which it would communicate, according to their nature, the perfections and charms of which they were capable. So God spoke, and a void and empty earth came into existence.”

“The Creator moulded the rock-ribbed earth, divided the seas from the land, planted the green herbs and gave them seeds to propagate themselves. He made the fishes and taught them the pathways of the deep. He fashioned the animals, those that now exist, as well as those of extinct races whose huge frames found under glaciers or in alluvial deposits.”

“Then man was created from the slime of the earth and a living soul breathed into him. And what was first in the intention of God came last into being. And the long march of the nations began. They went forth and covered the earth, conquered the wilderness and built cities—they chained the lightning and harnessed the ocean. Men used creation for their own purposes, leveling the mountains, filling the valleys, bridging the rivers. They beat down the great highways of travel, laid out paths upon the sea, tunneled the mountains, flew above the clouds and sailed under the waters; bound countries together with bands of steel, and taught invisible messengers to carry thought and voice around the earth.”

“And in the duly appointed time, I appeared upon the earth; I perceived myself amongst the sons and daughters of men, in a civilization grown old in the ages. And what is this marvelous gift that dawns upon me? I can know and understand, myself as well as other things. I perceive myself to be a being, self-possessed, independent, with power of life and motion, and ability to say, ‘I am, I exist, I have a being distinct from all other beings.’ Truly a Godlike attribute.”

“Who can give to non-being being and consciousness? None but the infinite Creator. And so I am an imitation, a projection of Infinite Being, the production of His omnipotence, a created, lighted spark coming from the unlighted ever-burning sun of Eternal Being.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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God’s Gifts to Us

Father Cassilly tells us: “Friendship can never cease to give or at least to desire to give. Presents and tokens of some kind ever accompany it. . . . A friend delights to give, to bestow tokens of love.” Where do we find God’s gifts to us? Here and in the next three posts, we shall enumerate a few of them.

“Everywhere, in the broad bands of sunlight that lie upon the fields by day, or steal in reflected beams from the moon by night, in the long wake of the rising or setting sun that breaks across the waters into a million sparkling diamonds. There is love divine in the dew drop, in the sheets of rain and hail that drive before the northern blast, in the swelling mountain and soaring peak, in the winds that career in wild freedom over the moor, and the southern gales that blow from perfumed grove and garden—in the glory and promise of morning as well as in the calm and fulfillment of eve.”

“All about us lies a fascinating creation, myriad in its variety, wondrous in its unity. . . . And sun and stars, land and sea, wind and rain, all are ministering to the many needs of man. Light and heat, ice and snow and air are all busy, through a never-ending cycle, working for us, producing from the soil rich vegetation, grains and grasses, and enabling the flocks and herds to cover field and prairie. Creation is now as in the beginning, a love song of the Most High. Its harmonies are never stilled. Light, color and shade, sound and silence, time, space and action blend together in one unending refrain of love with unnumbered variations. The rustling of the leaves, the roll of ocean, the shriek of the storm, the wild dance of the blizzard, are all only different rhythms and movements of the same symphony.”

“And why this vast outlay of power and tireless energy through countless ages? It is all the gift of God’s love. Nothing but love could make Him call forth from nothingness.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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Being Certain of God’s Love

Father Cassilly observes: “We all know from experience the depth and intensity, the strength and sweetness of a mother’s love for her child. Others may wonder what she discovers in her infant that makes her forget and sacrifice self for its sake. She loves it without reasoning why, because it is her own; and, seeing in it a multitude of perfections to which others are blind, she cherishes it for its own sake. And God has compared His love of us to that of a mother, and pronounced it even greater, so that if it were possible for her to forget the child of her womb, yet will not He forsake us. And though mother and father abandon us, He will take us up, and in return He expects us to love Him more than our father and mother, even, if necessary, leaving them for His name’s sake.”

Father Cassilly asks, “How can we be sure of a reciprocal love between God and us since no one knows whether he is worthy of love or hatred?” It is true that “no man can be absolutely sure that he is in God’s grace. But even in human friendship a friend’s love is often known more by his manner of acting than by the testimony of words. If he acts kindly and generously towards us, showers favors upon us, and takes pleasure in our company, we do not think of questioning his friendship, but take it for granted, since loving deeds can spring only from a loving heart. When the earth is flooded with light, no one searches the sky to discover if the sun be shining. In like manner, the sincere Christian, who is conscious of having done nothing to forfeit God’s friendship, who ever strives to obey His law, who feels within the peace that passeth all understanding, and beholds graces constantly lavished upon him, can have the highest probability, amounting to a sort of moral certainty, that God loves him.”

However, “the friendship of the wayfarer on earth cannot be as perfect as that of the possessor in heaven; for, besides our uncertainty of mind, there is always the danger of losing it, but when the veils shall be removed all doubt shall disappear in the sunburst of vision, and fear shall give way to the joy of possession.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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God Loving Us

Father Cassilly discusses how the nature and qualities of friendship are manifested in the relationship between God and a human person. First, he shows how God loves us.

“Friendship is mutual love, and Christ Himself teaches us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and soul; and this love must be for His own sake, on account of Himself and His infinite perfections and amiability. This precept is reasonable and, with the help of grace, not over difficult, since our very nature prompts us to love and esteem one who is every way worthy, even apart from the consideration whether he has rendered us any personal service. We then can and must love God for His own sake.”

“That He loves us is evidenced by His words and deeds, by the whole scheme of creation and redemption, by His daily solicitude and care over us. And this love is not for His own benefit or emolument, since He needs nothing of us, and we can give Him nothing that He has not. So His charity cannot be for His own sake, hence it must be for ours. And here the question naturally presents itself, how God can find anything in us to draw His complacence.”

“It is the universal law of intelligent being to love itself and what pertains to it. God, too, comes under this law, or rather we should say it proceeds and springs from Him. He does and must love Himself and what belongs to Him. Now it is not hard to show that we belong to Him, and by many titles. We are His creatures, the work of His hands, the offspring, so to speak, of His wisdom and counsel. We are made to His own image and likeness and so share in His essence and being, so far indeed as limited and created perfection may partake of the infinite. And we need not delay here on the manifestation of His predilection for us in the work of redemption. So in loving us God is only loving what pertains and belongs to Him, a reflection and embodying of Himself. We are His, and so intimately that as long as we are faithful and true He cannot discard or forget us.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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My Divine Friend

Friendships between human persons, says Father Cassilly, “we readily understand, and we have all experienced them in varying degrees of intensity and permanency.” But he asks: “Does it occur to us that there is such a thing on earth as divine friendship? Often indeed we have heard that we are friends of God, but does the phrase convey any definite, clear meaning, or is it to us a mere conventional expression, another way of saying that we are in the state of grace, or that we are free from mortal sin?”

He answers: “Inspired writers do not choose their words at random. From Holy Writ, its assertions and phraseology, the theologians draw a great part of the dogmas of revelation. . . . In many places Scripture tells us that God is the friend of the just man. . . . We are informed that they who use wisdom ‘become the friends of God,’ or according to a closer rendering of the Latin text, ‘become sharers in the friendship of God’ (Wis 7:14). Abraham in both the Old and New Testaments is called the ‘friend of God.’ St. John in his touching account of the Last Supper records Christ’s memorable words: ‘I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth. But I have called you friends, because all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father, I have made known to you.’ (Jn 15:15) Thus we have the term ‘friend of God’ applied repeatedly and insistently to those who were pleasing to Him.”

“The general rule for the interpretation of Scripture is, that the direct and obvious sense of the words is to be taken, unless there be good reason in the context or in the nature of the matter treated to read a tropical meaning into them. In the texts cited no hint is given for suspecting any other than a literal meaning of friendship; nor does any sufficient reason appear for doubting the possibility of God’s being a real and true friend to us.”

“The Council of Trent in its decree concerning the nature of justification takes this view of divine friendship, for without qualification it says, ‘By justification man from unjust becomes just, and from an enemy a friend’ (Session 6, Chap. 7); and again, ‘having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends of God and members of his Household’ (Session 6, Chap. 10). God, then, is a real friend of the just, with all that a true, genuine friendship implies. To doubt it were to doubt revelation itself.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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