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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Presence and Sacrifice

Father Cassilly discusses two more characteristics of true friendship: the desire to be in the presence of the beloved and the desire to make sacrifices for the beloved.

As to the first, he draws upon the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas, who regarded the nature of friendship such that “friends are impelled to seek each other’s company, for the heart desires the presence of the object it loves.”

Father Cassilly adds: “Friendship is best content when basking in the sunshine of the friend’s countenance. It is but pain and duress, said Buddha, to be separated from what we love. Yet, almost irresistibly as one is drawn to the presence and conversation of a friend, this propensity does not constitute the essence of friendship, which is rather to rest in the well-being of another.”

Regarding the desire to makes sacrifices for one’s friend, he writes: “It is characteristic of friendship to make, and wish to make, sacrifices for another. Sunshine friendship, the idle sport of a summer day, endures only so long as it is pleasant and agreeable, and cannot weather the storms of adversity. When the halcyon days of prosperity are gone, and dark clouds shut in the horizon of the soul, and chilling blasts freeze the heart, then is the time when the cheer and warmth of friendship are needed most. To love as long as convenient is but another name for selfishness. But to come to the assistance of another, when it means the sacrifice of ease and comfort, the risking of property, and the braving of the world’s obloquy—this is the part of friendship loyal and true.”

“The inspired writer tells us he is a friend that ‘loveth at all times, and a brother is proved in distress’ (Prv 17:17). Nor does it matter that the object of affection be poor and outcast, but rather the more helpless and pitiable he is the more attentive and solicitous is the friend. And in such circumstances is friendship proved as gold in the furnace.”

“Friendship is everywhere, but it reaches its perfection of growth only in generous natures. Splendid examples of it are scattered through history, and are conserved in sacred and profane literature. Jonathan’s soul was knit to David’s, Ruth would not leave Noemi, and Paul never forgot his spiritual son, Timothy.”

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

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Love Freely Given

Father Cassilly observes: “Though friendship’s love is given free it must have a return of love or it cannot live. . . . It surrenders self, but it still lives in another, and so it comes to pass that in all literature a friend is styled another self, ‘an image of self,’ the other ‘half of one’s soul.’ . . . Diogenes defines friends as ‘one soul in two bodies’; and Shakespeare considers them to have ‘two seeming bodies, but one heart.’ Scripture sets its seal of approval on this manner of speaking, when it says that a steadfast friend ‘shall be to thee as thyself’ (Sir 6:11).”

“Being essentially a donation, friendship can never cease to give or at least to desire to give. Presents and tokens of some kind ever accompany it, and these are prized not for what they are, but because they are freighted with the fragrance of the heart which bestowed them.”

“The generous heart then must give, for it knows that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Not, indeed, that it calculates in its gratuities, or hopes for a return of the bread it casts upon the waters. Nay, self has no place in its thoughts; it gives from the mere joy of giving.”

“Amongst the possessions shared in by friends are joy and sorrow. It is a matter of everyday experience that the sympathy of another is a great solace in grief, while the one who has received joyful news wishes everyone to hear it.”

“A further possession most jealously guarded by men, double locked and bolted within the heart, are secrets. These we regard as sacred, almost as a part of our personality, and we dread to have them exposed to a cold and unsympathetic gaze. While concealing them so carefully, we have at the same time an almost irresistible inclination to disclose them to one we trust and confide in. They are like a hidden fire within, burning and consuming until they are released. And so when crushed under the burden of a secret too heavy to bear alone, we are bound perforce to ask another to help us carry it. A friend is the natural depository of such a disclosure, whence arises the common saying, ‘There are no secrets between friends.'”

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

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Willing Love

Father Cassilly writes: “Love is an act of the will, and the will, like any other faculty, has its own proper object. As sounds are perceived by the ear and colors by the eye, as the intellect assents to truth, so the will finds rest in the good. Of its very nature it loves what is good and hates what is evil. It cannot love evil as such. Evil may masquerade as good and so deceive the will into a false love, and what is good may deck itself in so attractive a garb as to beget an intemperate or inordinate desire of it. But good in some shape or form is ever the proper object of love. And the love of friendship is no exception to this rule. In natural friendship we base our good-will to another on his own goodness, we give him our love because we consider him worthy of it.”

“One may esteem and love you highly, and yet, if you are not aware of his sentiments, you are not properly his friend; and even when you learn his attitude toward you, you still give him no right to call you friend, until you accept his offering of affection and let him know that you reciprocate it. Friendship, then, is a mutual love, and though called forth by the consideration of another’s worth it remains free in the giving. . . . You cannot bind or halter, command or purchase it. Of its essence it is a free gift and unpurchasable.”

“Since love consists in so close a riveting of hearts, it would seem natural to conclude that it flourishes best between equals. St. Jerome does not hesitate to say that ‘friendship either finds equals or makes them.’ Where no interest, pursuit or similarity of taste exists in common, it is evident that nothing serves to draw the wills together. . . . Men closely bound by friendship’s tie ordinarily feel so keenly the chafing of inequality that the superior strives to keep his own eminence in the background, and at the same time to elevate his friend, as near as may be, to his own station. Thus we read in Scripture that King Alexander, wishing to make Jonathan, the valiant brother of Judas Machabeus, his confederate and friend, appointed him high priest of his nation and sent him a purple robe and a crown of gold to raise him to a dignity worthy of a king’s friend (1 Mc 10:20).”

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

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