Saturday 27th November 2021

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

Reflections On Deus Caritas Est

January 26, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


As we continue to examine the theological virtue of charity, it would serve us well to reflect on the wisdom contained in the first encyclical of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who just celebrated his ninety-first birthday. The former Vicar of Christ has much to offer on how love and charity are to be properly understood.
Pope Benedict issued Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”) on the Feast of the Nativity in 2005 and it was subsequently released to the general public on January 25, 2006. The issuance date is symbolically significant in that it coincides with the Feast of the Incarnation, that day on which God bestowed on mankind the gift of His only begotten Son in His human nature.
Also notable is that it was promulgated to the Church at large nine months after Benedict assumed the papacy, which corresponds to the length of time that a couple awaits childbirth — the fruit of their married loved — after conception.
The encyclical was addressed to all members of the Church to clarify the meaning of the word “love,” certainly one of the most used, misunderstood, and misused words in the English language. Pope Benedict exposes the many and varied meanings of “love” in our secularized society; he then proceeds to convey its true Christian meaning and explains how closely interconnected Christian love is with the practice of Christian charity.
The first words of Deus Caritas Est (DCE), “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16), indicate the course Pope Benedict will take in his teaching. His purpose is “to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others” (DCE, n. 1 § 3).
He deals profoundly with the primacy of love for the life of every Christian and for the Church as a whole, dividing his teaching in two sections: (1) the meaning of love in salvation history, particularly with the forms of love depicted by eros and agape, and (2) the practice of love by the Church and her members. He explains how personal love and the practice of charity are profoundly interconnected.
In Part I, “The Unity of Love in Creation and in Salvation History,” the Holy Father directly asserts that “God’s love for us is fundamental for our lives, and it raises important questions about who God is and who we are” (DCE, n. 2 § 1). He speaks of the types of love depicted by the three Greek words, eros, philia, and agape, where eros and agape are highlighted.
In his Modern Catholic Dictionary (MCD), Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, explains that “in the Christian vocabulary eros is possessive love; it is the love that desires for one’s own benefit. It is acquisitive love on whatever plane of self-satisfaction something is said to be loved” (pp. 191-192). In our culture, it is most often associated with “erotic” love and does not often distinguish between pleasure and the person — what is actually “loved” is the pleasure the other person gives.
It is an immature kind of love that is withdrawn when the self-gratification sought is no longer realized. This goes a long way toward explaining why divorce is so commonplace in the world of today.
Agape, in contrast, is the most distinctively Christian form of love. It was used by Jesus to describe the love among persons of the Trinity and is the love He commanded His followers to have for one another:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Agape helps us give up our self-centeredness and seek the good of the ones we love. Using our free will, we do what ought to be done for loved ones in given circumstances even when attraction, pleasure, and inclination are absent. Genuine love is self-sacrificial and is most perfectly exemplified by God’s only Son offering His life on Calvary to save sinful mankind (cf. MCD, p. 15).
Elsewhere, Fr. Hardon identifies the secret of true love in a series of three statements, each based on divine Revelation and each building on the preceding one: (1) give rather than receive; (2) give in deeds and not only in affection or words; and (3) give self and not only things (cf. Spiritual Life in the Modern World, pp. 50-56).
St. Peter identifies two conditions that must be fulfilled before true love is realized: We must accept divine Revelation and then be purified of our defects (cf. 1 Peter 1:22).
Pope Benedict emphasizes that “man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.” He continues, “It is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain full stature” (DCE, n. 5 § 2).
So it is when the love of eros is purified and transformed and is no longer self-seeking, but seeks the good of the beloved as characterized by the love of agape that we become who we are created to be.
Yet man “cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift” (DCE, n. 7 § 2). We receive love as a gift from Christ, who is the source of love for the Church, poured out as living water that flows from His Sacred Heart: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out water and blood” (John 19:34). As the Pope states, “God’s eros for man is also totally agape” (DCE, n. 9 § 1).
Pope Benedict points out that the love of eros is directed toward marriage. Erotic love is ordered to and ultimately culminates in the Sacrament of Matrimony. The Holy Father points to the love between a married man and woman “where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness. This would seem to be the very epitome of love” (DCE, n. 2 § 2).
Each desires the other with eros and both desire to give themselves to and for the other with agape. “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love” (DCE, n. 11 § 2).
An enduring presence of the union of eros and agape is realized by Jesus in the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. As stated in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, it is “the [source and summit] of the whole Christian life” (n. 11 § 1) and is God’s means of being with us always in the Real Presence. “The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing his body and blood” (DCE, n. 13).
The second part of the encyclical, “Caritas: The Practice of Love by the Church,” offers a discourse on how the Church is called to exercise the commandment of love of neighbor and strive for a just social order. It makes two main points: (1) as a community, the Church must practice love through works of charity and attend to people’s sufferings and needs, including material needs; and (2) the Church’s actions stem from its spiritual mission and must never be undertaken as part of a social or ideological agenda.
“This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which is often even more necessary than material support” (DCE, n. 28 § 7). A materialist misconception that the Christian faithful must never fall into is that man can live “by bread alone” (Matt. 4:4).
In Western society, which is experiencing a continual and unabated attack on the family and Christian moral values, it is important to realize that the family is the basic unit of society — as the family goes so will go society in general. If we want to work for social justice, we must first do justice to the fundamental social unit: the relationship of man and woman and family that springs from their love.

Prayer Is A Cornerstone

Pope Benedict reminds us that prayer is a vital part of Christian charitable activity — it keeps the Christian in contact with God, who is Love, who alone is able to conquer the evils of the world. St. Teresa of Avila defines mental prayer as “an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” (The Book of Her Life, 8, 5).
St. Alphonsus Liguori maintains that “it is morally impossible for him who neglects meditation to live without sin” (Peter Thomas Rohrbach, Conversation with Christ, p. 5).
Pope Benedict states that “prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone” (DCE, n. 36). Suffice it to say that prayer needs to be a cornerstone for anyone engaged in authentic and fruitful charitable activity.
Having achieved his purpose for writing the encyclical, namely clarifying the true Christian meaning of love and explaining how deeply this love is intertwined in the Christian’s daily life, the Holy Father ends by setting before us the Mother of God as a prototypical example of what it means to love and practice charity. “Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself” (DCE, n. 41). Mary is our model because “she places herself totally at the disposal of God’s initiatives” (ibid.).

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a Consecrated Marian Catechist.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

Pro-Life Group Calls for Removing Fauci After He's Caught Funding Aborted Baby Parts - - The Pro-Life News Source


Load More...

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Vatican observes ‘Earth Hour’

On Saturday, along with the Vatican, symbolic monuments of cities all across the globe turn off their lights, to demonstrate the serious global climate crisis. By Vatican News staff writer Vatican City State took part in the traditional international initiative Earth…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1


Adopt A Center

Today . . .

Fr. Altman torches bishops

BALTIMORE ( – A fiery persecuted priest is calling U.S. bishops to account for corruption and abuse within the Catholic Church. Wisconsin priest Fr. James Altman sent a scorching message to Catholic prelates today at Church Militant’s “Bishops: Enough Is Enough” prayer rally in Baltimore. The rally is within throwing distance of the location of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall meeting.

Is It Impossible?

Cindy Paslawski      The media pundits were off and running at the mouth and pen about the US Bishops who are holding their annual fall meeting. In all their theological expertise, writers from Savannah to Los Angeles were proclaiming that Joe Biden should not be forbidden to receive the Holy Eucharist.      I do not recall a Bishop telling members of the secular media what to write, so where do these media theological “experts” get…Continue Reading

Catholic Bishop Slams Biden for Supporting Abortion: “63 Million Babies Have Been Murdered. It’s a Bloodbath”

Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone called out President Joe Biden this week for supporting the abortion “bloodbath” that has destroyed nearly 63 million unborn babies’ lives in the United States. The San Francisco archbishop has been outspoken in his criticism of political leaders like Biden who profess to be Catholic while openly advocating for the killing of unborn babies in abortions. In a new interview with America Magazine, Cordileone pointed out that Biden no longer even claims…Continue Reading

Barrett and Kavanaugh Supply Majority to Deny Religious-Liberty Claim on Vaccine Mandate

Late Friday, Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court’s three progressives in denying a preliminary injunction to a group of medical professionals who sought to be exempted from Maine’s vaccine mandate because of their religious convictions. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a compelling dissent in the case, John Does 1-3 v. Mills, joined by his fellow conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Sa

Catholic Politicians and Non-Admittance to Holy Communion

Praised be Jesus Christ! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, For the past several months, the intention of the Church in the United States of America has been very much in my prayers. At their coming November meeting, the Bishops of the United States will be considering the application of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others…Continue Reading

Wisconsin Parents Sue School District… For Shutting Them Out Of Children’s Name, Pronoun Changes

MILWAUKEE — The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) and Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing two sets of Wisconsin parents have filed a lawsuit against the Kettle Moraine School District to challenge its policy that allows minor students to change their name and gender pronouns at school without parental consent.One of the Wisconsin couples…Continue Reading

The End Of The Liturgical Year… Remembering That All Faith Is Local, In Our Hearts

By MOST REV. JOSEPH STRICKLAND (Editor’s Note: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, delivered this homily on November 14, 2021, the Sunday before the USCCB Fall General Assembly. The text first appeared on the website of the St. Philip Institute on Catechesis and Evangelization.) + + The end is near. You might be thinking, “Oh,…Continue Reading

Kyle Rittenhouse, Both Right And Righteous

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN In judging the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, set aside for the moment Wisconsin law under which he is being tried, and consider the natural law, the moral law, the higher law written on the human heart.In terms of values demonstrated and the deeds done that night that Rittenhouse shot the three…Continue Reading

Adorned Like A Bride For Her Husband… The Cartuja Monastery Of Granada

By JAMES MONTI When we think of the Carthusian Order, the imagery that comes most readily to mind is that of a life of profound and utter austerity — a demanding life of self-denial lived in stark surroundings and in much silence. Yet within the Carthusian tradition, there developed over the centuries a recognition of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Debunking A Plethora Of Myths About Michelangelo

By JAMES BARESEL Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece by William E. Wallace, Princeton University Press, 2021. Popular memory treats Michelangelo simply as a man of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Tuscan High Renaissance that was centered on Florence and Rome. That was the time that he…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Kudos to Catholic League President Bill Donohue on his new book The Truth About Clergy Sexual Abuse (available at In a statement, Donohue says that his book demonstrates that “the sexual abuse scandal effectively ended decades ago.” This is confirmed, he said, “by the 2020 Annual Report on clergy sexual abuse published by the National Review Board…Continue Reading

Our Bishops Can Learn From Kyle Rittenhouse

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Some things are worth defending.Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man at 17 years of age, knows this fact quite well. He was forced to defend his own life because others threatened to take it away. Kyle is now, as of November 18, awaiting the verdict from his trial but, as is so often the case today,…Continue Reading

Multitudes In The Valley Of Decision! A Meditation On The Dramatic Battle In Which We Live

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this column on November 15 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + A grave deficiency of modern times is the loss of the sense that our lives are caught up in a tremendous, epic battle. Yet here we are living in the midst of a great drama —…Continue Reading

Be Vigilant And Pray For Strength

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR C) Readings: Jer. 33:14-161 Thess. 3:12-4:2Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah tells us the days are coming when the Lord will fulfill the promise He made to Israel and Judah — that is, He will raise up a righteous shoot to David. That Shoot, of course, is…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I am an avid reader of your column. A few years ago, you published an excellent piece on how to gain indulgences for the souls in Purgatory during November. I had used that column for years, but now can’t seem to find my copy. Would you be able to run it again? It’s the best article on that subject…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Margaret Of Castello

By DEB PIROCH “Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt. 13:44-45).The other famous biblical reference to pearls is in The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Christ says: “Give not that which…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Hildegard von Bingen

By DEB PIROCH O leafy branch,standing in your nobilityas the dawn breaks forth:now rejoice and be gladand deign to set us frail onesfree from evil habitsand stretch forth your handand lift us up — St. Hildegard. She was a German saint, a mystic, an abbess, a poet and composer. Her writings included the first morality play, illustrated medieval manuscripts of…Continue Reading