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St. Francis de Sales: Love for a loveless age

“Nothing so much presses man’s heart as love,” wrote St. Francis de Sales, whose feast day we celebrate today, in Treatise on the Love of God. “If a man know that he is beloved, be it by whom it may, he is pressed to love in his turn.”

Last month on the fourth centenary of his death, Pope Francis honored St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), the bishop of Geneva after Calvinism had overwhelmed the region, with a spiritually rich apostolic letter. The French bishop devoted his whole life to teaching men and women how to devote themselves to God. As the pope’s letter makes clear, the saint’s spiritual counsel remains as poignant as ever in a world that has forgotten how to love because it has forgotten the God who is love.

The modern world, with its exaltation of the individual and his will as masters of the universe, has difficulty understanding love, which is classically defined as willing the good of another. Yes, people today are still capable of loving, but the way we love is influenced by the culture around us. Too often this leads to a love of others enveloped within a greater love of self—what Aristotle called not love, but friendship of utility. Precipitous drops in the marriage and birth rates across the developed world testify to love frustrated by selfishly imposed limits.

The other problem that this individualist skewing of love generates is the difficulty of allowing oneself to be loved by another. How can a person wrapped up in himself receive another’s love, especially when the prevailing cultural narrative tells us that relationships are really about power and submission? Contemporary man in so many places is alienated from his neighbors and has no real roots in the community where he lives—many now are even remote from their co-workers. Forced to satisfy the natural desire for community and love through the Internet, it is no wonder that so many today are depressed, lonely, and untrusting of others.

Read more at Catholic World Report 

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