Love of Neighbor ~ Essay of Love, 1912


Essay of Love, 1912, by Ernest R. Hull, S.J.


Turning now to human beings, but still confining ourselves to the purely spiritual part of man, our chief task is to apply the foregoing distinction between the love of concupiscence and the love of benevolence. We have said something about these two kinds of love as shown towards God. Now we shall consider them as they can subsist between a man and his fellow-creatures.

Revelation teaches us that our primary duty, which is the summing up of all detailed commandments, is first, to love the Lord Our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength; and secondly, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This latter clause provides the starting point for our present section.

By our neighbor is not meant merely the man that lives next door. It includes, actually, every human being that comes within the range of our experience, while potentially, and as a disposition of mind, it extends to the whole human race.

As there is a great variety in the nearness or remoteness of different “neighbors,” it is only natural that this love should admit of vastly different degrees of intensity, and that special relationships should introduce what amounts practically to differences in kind — love of parents, of brothers and sisters, of relatives, of acquaintances, of our fellow-countrymen, and the rest.

Leaving these variations alone just now, we confine ourselves to the root-idea of love for our neighbor in its widest sense. This does not necessarily involve the least touch of passion or even of emotion; for the love commanded is a purely spiritual love.


Now it is impossible to avoid the fact that while some of our fellow-beings seem to us good and amiable, others strike us as in various degrees repulsive — so that in practical effect we fail to find in them anything to love, in fact, as far as our feelings are concerned, we positively detest them, and they seem to deserve it.

The archaic saying: “Love thy friends and hate thine enemies” had thus a rational basis, since friends always present themselves as amiable and enemies as odious.

But Christian revelation carries us deeper down below the surface of things and, without in any way denying or ignoring the limitations of human nature, lifts us above them, and provides us with a view more like that of God himself.

If there is any being who realizes the odiousness, the repulsiveness of certain creatures, it is God Himself; and yet He loves all his creatures, even the most detestable of them. And why? Not because He twists or perverts the proper order of things so as to love evil as if it were good; but because He sees some goodness under the surface which we, with our limited vision, fail to perceive.

He sees not only the goodness which is actually hidden away in them, but also the goodness of which they are capable, and which He desires for them. Hence he can quite naturally love them with a love of benevolence — glad that they are not worse than they are, and desirous that they should become better than they are.


The love of our neighbor, including the repulsive neighbor, is generally a puzzle for most minds. But the grand distinction between concupiscent and benevolent love comes to our rescue, and makes the matter as plain and simple as daylight.

We are not commanded by God to love our neighbor with the love of concupiscence. Such a command would be impossible to carry out. We simply cannot desire our neighbor except so far as he presents himself as desirable. And some of them certainly present themselves as highly undesirable.

We cannot desire our neighbor, except so far as we feel in ourselves some void which he can fill, or unless his presence adds something to our well-being.

Some of our neighbors, on the contrary, empty us rather of what we have got, or put into us things which we would fain be rid of; while the majority of men are so remote and out of touch that their existence makes not the slightest difference to us.

No, what God commands of us is a love like His own — a love of pure benevolence. This consists in a state of good-will towards mankind in general, disinterested and calm — a gladness in thinking that all is well with them, a general wish for their continued well-being.

This general attitude of mind remains, and may legitimately remain merely an attitude, until some individual comes into contact with us, or falls within the sphere of our activity. In that case this benevolence must become concrete so far as circumstances require and must issue in a certain readiness to promote his well-being so far as this is feasible and reasonable.

Herein consists the positive fulfillment of the “second and great commandment.” This benevolence may arise above the minimum to any degree of intensity; but it must never fall to zero, still less must it ever degenerate into the contrary.

Thus, we must never rejoice over our neighbor’s present evils, or wish future evils to befall him; nor must we ever entertain jealousy or envy over his prosperity or well-being.

The idea will be made most clear by considering the case of our deadly and active enemy. We may honestly wish that he were out of our way, that he were prevented from molesting us. We may even legally seek his

suppression and punishment if his misconduct brings him under the law; we may even pray (piously, not ironically) that God may see good to translate him to a better life.

But in all this there must not be a vestige of malice. Our desire of relief from his aggression must never issue in wishing him evil as such. Even our appeal to the police must be free from a spirit of vengeance, or a wish to “take it out of him;” and the coercive punishments we bring upon him must be viewed only as a just maintenance of the social order, and a means of bringing him to a better frame of mind.

In other words, the spirit of benevolence must always honestly prevail.

Jesus could have come into this world in many ways; but He chose to begin life like all other men, cradled beneath the heart of a woman. When the eternal God took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and willed to be the object of a mother’s tender nursing, care, and love, then was motherhood raised to the zenith of splendor and beauty, then was the law of nature made perfect by the law of grace. ~Fr. Lawrence Lovasik

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An Englishman living as a monk in the Italian Alps is called to England to rebut and neutralize the efforts of an aggressively hostile anti-Catholic to proselytize the English.

Seriously wounded at the siege of Pamplona in 1521, Don Inigo de Loyola learned that to be a Knight of God was an infinitely greater honor (and infinitely more dangerous) than to be a Knight in the forces of the Emperor. Uli von der Flue, humorous, intelligent and courageous Swiss mercenary, was responsible for the canon shot which incapacitated the worldly and ambitious young nobleman, and Uli became deeply involved in Loyola’s life. With Juanita, disguised as the boy Juan, Uli followed Loyola on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to protect him, but it was the saint who protected Uli and Juan. Through Uli’s eyes we see the surge and violence of the turbulent period in Jerusalem, Spain and Rome.
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