Love (charity) is “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1822; see 1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1823-1829) teaches us more about the virtue of love: “Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own ‘to the end,’ he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.’ And again: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’
“Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: ‘Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.’
“….Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
“The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of him who ‘first loved us.’”
How can we not love God who has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:19-21) and is all-good and “worthy of all my love” (Act of Contrition)? Loving God means loving Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (cf. Luke 10:25-28).
Love of God is expressed in many ways, such as praying, faithfully carrying out our daily duties, loving and serving others, and putting others ahead of ourselves. If we truly love God, we will also love our neighbor.
“Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self” (St. Teresa of Calcutta).
“To love God is something greater than to know Him” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
“It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).
“We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear” (St. Francis de Sales).
This beautiful act of love was written by St. John Mary Vianney (St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney), who lived from 1786 to 1859. St. John (also known as the Curé of Ars) was a humble French priest best known for his many hours (up to 16 hours a day) spent hearing confessions.
Regarding the love of God, St. John Vianney said: “To love God! Oh, how beautiful it is! We must be in Heaven to comprehend love. Prayer helps us a little, because prayer is the elevation of the soul to Heaven. The more we know men, the less we love them. It is the reverse with God; the more we know of Him the more we love Him.
‘This knowledge inflames the soul with such a love that it can no longer love or desire anything but God… Man was created by love; therefore he is disposed to love. On the other hand, he is so great that nothing on earth can satisfy him. He can be satisfied only when he turns to God. Take a fish out of water, and it will not live… Well, such is man without God.”
St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priest and of all priests, pray for us!
As you pray this beautiful prayer of love, realize how much the infinitely lovable God loves you and pour out your love for Him!
Prayer of Love by St. John Vianney
I love You, O my God and my only desire is to love You until my last breath. I love You, O infinitely lovable God, and I prefer to die loving You rather than to live for a single moment without loving You. I love You, O my God, and I long for heaven only to know the bliss of loving You perfectly. I love You, O my God, and I only fear going to hell because there I will never experience the sweet consolation of loving You. O my God, if my tongue is not able to say at every opportunity that I love You, at least I want my heart to repeat it to You as many times as I take a breath. My God, give me the grace of suffering out of love for You, of loving You while I suffer; give me the grace of one day breathing my last breath out of love for You and at the same time feeling how much I love You. The closer I come to my final end, the more I beseech You to intensify and perfect my love for You. Amen.