LOVE 100 beautiful and inspirational meditations Paris • New York • Oxford • Madrid • Warsaw Magnificat®
6 Saint Paul’s “hymn to charity” in 1 Corinthians 13 has to be one of the most famous and most quoted parts of the entire Bible. Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous…. We might stumble over the rest if pressed to repeat it from memory, but hearing it read aloud is like hearing a song we have known since our youth, one that never grows old. Unsurprisingly, cheerful young brides and grooms frequently select this beautiful text as one of their wedding readings. With hands clasped and butterflies in their stomachs, the soon-to-be husband and wife sit beaming as an aunt or an uncle or another beloved relative is honored with reading those sacred words. Saint Paul’s words speak to all of us, in fact, in every vocation and at every moment of our existence. They help us understand concretely what it will look like as we flesh out day-to-day Christ’s great commandment to love and to abide in love—which, after all, was not an airy abstraction! INTRODUCTION
7 LOVE: 100 beautiful and inspirational meditations Love: just four little letters, one brief syllable. If it can be agreed that an unfortunate tendency of our time has been the reduction of love to mere sentiment, the Church—guardian and teacher of divine revelation that she is—continues to proclaim to the world what true love means, and what it must always mean if it is to be real: the willingness to sacrifice; the willingness to place the true good of another above one’s own preferences, comforts, or pleasures; the willingness to forgive and persevere even when it is challenging or the world would say it’s time to give up; the willingness to love even until death. Do we need a still more vivid image? God himself has given us one: Jesus on the cross. Jesus with his pure and sacred Heart. Jesus, love incarnate. The meditations in this book have been drawn from the rich treasury of the Church’s tradition, from the first centuries of Christianity up to our very day. We hope that these texts will bring inspiration, consolation, and peace to all who read them—to all of us who seek to understand and embrace the sweet demands of love in our own lives. For that one little word says a lot. It is the word that defines God himself, for God is love (1 Jn 4:16). So, dear friends, happy reading! Fr. Sebastian White, o.p. Editor-in-Chief, MAGNIFICAT
03 LOVE IS NOT JEALOUS 53
54 ENVY, DAUGHTER OF PRIDE When pride has crept into a servant of God, straightaway envy is to be found there too. The proud person cannot help being envious. Envy is the daughter of pride; but this mother is unable to be barren; wherever she is, she immediately gives birth…. And so it’s not for nothing that the apostle says to all the members of Christ, Each thinking the other superior to themselves, and outdoing one another in mutual respect (Phil 2:3; Rom 12:10). Indeed, if your thoughts run on “ The proud person cannot help being envious. Envy is the daughter of pride; but this mother is unable to be barren; wherever she is, she immediately gives birth. ”
55 Love is not jealous these lines, you won’t be great in your own eyes. After all, what you should rather be thinking about is what you lack, instead of what advantages you have. As for what you have, be careful you don’t lose it; as for what you haven’t got yet, pray hard that you may get it. It’s on all the ways in which you fall behind others that your thoughts should dwell, not on all the ways in which you excel them. I mean, if you’re thinking how much better you have done than the other person, beware of getting a swollen head. But if you’re thinking how much you’re still falling short, you start groaning; and when you groan, you are worrying about yourself, you will be humble, you will walk more securely, you won’t tumble over a cliff, you won’t be puffed up like a balloon. And if only we could all just let our thoughts dwell on the one thing, charity! It’s the only thing, you see, which both surpasses all things, and without which all things are worth nothing, and which draws all things to itself, wherever it may be. This is the thing that is not jealous. SAINT AUGUSTINE († 430) is called the Doctor of Grace.
56 A SINGLE DESIRE Saint Thomas is quite clear: if you want peace within yourself you must unify all desires; which means that you must make all desires the aspects of one single desire, which means in turn, that you must love—you must will to obey—God above all things. And if you want peace with and in your family, it is the same thing: you must want their good as much as you want your own; “ If you want peace within yourself you must unify all desires; which means that you must make all desires the aspects of one single desire, which means in turn, that you must love—you must will to obey—God above all things. ”
57 Love is not jealous you must drive out selfishness and envy and jealousy and spite, and learn the meaning of the love that serves; and this you will do if you have the first kind of peace, because then you will see the good of the family as part of that will of God which it is your supreme desire to fulfill. But to do that is to live in the present: you know and recognize the presence of God in the midst of your family, and his continuous providence for it; you are at peace within yourself in the fullest sense because you are content to do the work of the present moment and let God provide for the future. Be not solicitous: it does not mean, of course, that you must take no thought at all for the morrow; to do that is part of the vocation of family life. But it does mean that when you have taken all prudent measures, when you have done what you can with the means that God has given you, then you refuse to worry, to be agitated, to make yourself miserable with imagined future woes or present difficulties. FATHER GERALD VANN († 1963) was an English Dominican and a popular preacher, lecturer, and author.
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98 PRESERVE OUR HEARTS IN PURITY “ I ask you to preserve our souls in uprightness, our hearts in purity, our lives in true innocence, and all our desires and all our thoughts for our whole life in pure truth. May your boundless mercy prepare us and may your perfect love draw us. ”
99 LOVE IS NOT RUDE Lord, in your highest love and your greatest and sweetest mercy, how they have ever flowed from your eternal Godhead, from heaven to earth, I ask you to preserve our souls in uprightness, our hearts in purity, our lives in true innocence, and all our desires and all our thoughts for our whole life in pure truth. May your boundless mercy prepare us and may your perfect love draw us so that we live in the truth according to your dearest will. And I ask you, my Lord by your holy sufferings that you forgive all the evil we have done in thought, word and deed and all the carelessness of our lives. And may the power be given to us to overcome all human evil with ever increasing heartfelt love for you. I desire also that we be given the pure truth by the power of your five holy wounds. May truth be impressed upon us and may we be led by it so that it may live in us and we in it. BLESSED MARGARET EBNER († 1351) was a Dominican nun at Maria Medingen, Germany.
100 AVOIDING THE DEVIL’S BEGUILEMENTS God, all-powerful and all-knowing, without beginning and without end, you who are the source, the sustainer, and the rewarder of all virtues, grant that I may abide on the firm ground of faith, be sheltered by an impregnable shield of hope, and be adorned in the bridal garment of charity. Grant that I may through justice be subject to you, through prudence avoid the beguilements of the devil, through temperance exercise restraint, and through fortitude endure adversity with patience. Grant that whatever good things I have, I may share generously with those who have not and that whatever good things I do not have, I may request humbly from those who do. Grant that I may judge rightly the evil of the wrongs I have done and bear calmly the punishments I have brought upon myself, and that I may never envy my neighbor’s possessions and ever give thanks for your good things. “ Plant deep in me, Lord, all the virtues. ”
101 LOVE IS NOT RUDE Grant that I may always observe modesty in the way I dress, the way I walk, and the gestures I use, restrain my tongue from frivolous talk, prevent my feet from leading me astray, keep my eyes from wandering glances, shelter my ears from rumors, lower my gaze in humility, lift my mind to thoughts of heaven, contemn all that will pass away, and love you only. Grant that I may subdue my flesh and cleanse my conscience, honor the saints and praise you worthily, advance in goodness, and end a life of good works with a holy death. Plant deep in me, Lord, all the virtues, that I might be devout in divine matters, discerning in human affairs, and burdensome to no one in fulfilling my own bodily needs. Grant to me, Lord, fervent contrition, pure confession, and complete reparation. Order me inwardly through a good life, that I might do what is right and what will be meritorious for me and a good example for others. Grant that I may never crave to do things impulsively, nor disdain to do what is burdensome, lest I begin things before I should or abandon them before finishing. Amen. SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS († 1274) was a Dominican priest from Italy. He remains one of the Church’s premier Doctors.
08 LOVE BELIEVES ALL THINGS 162
164 RESISTING DISCOURAGEMENT Go forth very bravely with perfect trust in the goodness of him who calls you to this holy task. When has anyone ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? Mistrust of your own powers is good as long as it is the groundwork of confidence in God’s power; but if you are ever in any way discouraged, anxious, sad, or melancholy I entreat you to cast this away as the temptation of temptations; and never allow your spirit to argue or reply in any way to any anxiety or downheartedness “ When has anyone ever hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? Mistrust of your own powers is good as long as it is the groundwork of confidence in God’s power. ”
165 Love believes all things to which you may feel inclined. Remember this simple truth which is beyond all doubt: God allows many difficulties to beset those who want to serve him but he never lets them sink beneath the burden as long as they trust in him. This, in a few words, is a complete summary of what you most need: never under any pretext whatsoever to yield to the temptation of discouragement, not even on the plausible pretext of humility. Humility…may refuse office but it does not persist stubbornly in its refusal; and being employed by those in power, it does not enter into any further argument about its worthiness, but believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, as does charity; it is always simple. Holy humility is the great partner of obedience, and in the same way as it never presumes to think itself capable of anything whatever, it always believes obedience capable of everything; and as true simplicity humbly refuses office, so true humility simply does what it is told. SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES († 1622) was a great figure of the 17th century rebirth of Catholic mystical life. He is a Doctor of the Church.
166 MYSTERIOUS WISDOM When…the soul realizes that Christ, in his extreme humiliation and annihilation on the cross, achieved the greatest result, the reconciliation and union of mankind with God, there awakens in her the understanding that for her, also, annihilation, the “living death by crucifixion of all that is sensory as well as spiritual” leads to union with God. Just as Jesus in the extreme abandonment at his death surrendered himself into the hands of the invisible and incomprehensible God, so will the soul yield herself to the midnight darkness of faith which is the only way to the incomprehensible God. Then she will be granted mystical contemplation, the “ray of darkness,” the mysterious wisdom of God, the dark and general knowledge that alone corresponds to the unfathomable God who blinds the understanding and appears to it as darkness. It floods the soul and does this all the more easily the more the soul is free from all other impressions. This wisdom is “ This wisdom is something much purer. ”
167 Love believes all things something much purer, more tender, spiritual, and interior than all that is familiar to the intellect from the natural life of the spirit. Also raised above temporality, it is a true beginning of eternal life in us. It is not a mere acceptance of the message of faith that has been heard, nor a mere turning of oneself to God, who is known only from hearsay, rather it is an interior being touched and an experience of God that has the power to detach the soul from all created things, and to raise her, simultaneously plunging her into a love that does not know its object. We will not attempt to determine here whether this dark, loving knowledge, in which the soul is touched in her innermost depth by God—from “mouth to mouth,” from substance to substance—can still be reckoned as faith. This dark, loving knowledge is the surrender of the soul through the will (as her mouth) to the loving approach of the still-concealed God: love, which is not feeling, but rather a readiness for action and sacrifice, an insertion of one’s own will into the divine will in order to be led by it alone. SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS, EDITH STEIN, († 1942) was a German philosopher and a convert from Judaism who became a Carmelite nun and was put to death at Auschwitz.