The Virtue of Charity

Jesus Preaches in a Ship by James Tissot

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” (John 13:35) Accordingly, St. John writes: “He who saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, he is in darkness even until now.” (1 John 2:9)

Padre Quadrupani states: “Our divine Lord has said that His disciples should be known by their love one for another. This Christian virtue of charity makes us love our neighbor in God, the creature for the sake of the Creator. Love of God, love of our neighbor,—these virtues are two branches springing from the same trunk and having but one and the same root.”

He then shows how the virtue of charity is different from other kinds of love: “To feel and to consent are two distinct and widely different things. . . . When religion commands us to love our enemies, the commandment is addressed to the superior portion of the soul, the will, not to the inferior portion in which reside the carnal affections that follow the natural inclinations. In a word, when we speak of charity the question is not of that human friendship which we feel for those who are naturally pleasing to us, a sentiment wherein we seek merely our own satisfaction and which therefore has nothing in common with charity.”

The editor of Light and Peace adds this thought from St. Francis de Sales: “Charity makes us love God above all things; and our neighbor as ourselves with a love not sensual, not natural, not interested, but pure, strong and unwavering, and having its foundation in God.”

Archbishop Francois Fenelon distinguishes between affection and charity in this way: “To love our neighbor as ourselves does not mean that we should have for him that intense feeling of affection that we have for ourselves, but simply that we wish for him, and from the motive of charity, what we wish for ourselves.” Moreover, he insists: “Pure and genuine love, love having for its sole end the object beloved, should be reserved for God alone, and to bestow it elsewhere is a violation of a divine right.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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