Totum Amoris Est: Where is the greatest love?

This is the second post in a series on Totum Amoris Est, the Apostolic Letter issued by Pope Francis to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the death of St. Francis de Sales. Click here for Part One of this series.

The title of this Apostolic Letter, Totum Amoris Est, means “everything pertains to love,” a quote from St. Francis’ Treatise on Divine Love: “In Holy Church, everything pertains to love, lives in love, is done for love and comes from love.” Everything in St. Francis’ spiritual worldview stems from the fact that God himself is love, and everything he wills for us is good. One of the main goals of the Christian life is therefore to always seek where the greatest love is to be found in our lives. Where this greatest love will be found is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. St. Francis recognized that God invites each of us to find the greatest love in the midst of the life to which he has called us. It’s in the everyday situations of our particular vocations that we will find the greatest love, and be invited to live it out. St. Francis writes:

You know, or you should know, that contemplation is in itself better than activity and the active life; nonetheless, if one finds greater union [with God] in the active life, then that is better. If a Sister in the kitchen holding a pan over the fire has greater love and charity than another Sister, that material fire will not hold her back but instead help her to become more pleasing to God. It frequently happens that people are united to God as much in activity as in solitude; in the end, it always comes back to the question of where the greatest love is to be found.

St. Francis also wrote in An Introduction to the Devout Life

I ask you, my child, would it be fitting that a bishop should seek to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if the father of a family were as regardless in making provision fo the future as a Capuchin, if the artisan spent the day in church like a religious, if the religious involved himself in all manner of business on his neighbour’s behalf as a bishop is called upon to do, would not such a devotion be ridiculous, ill-regulated, and intolerable?…that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of anyone is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion. 

St. Francis points us to the reality that holiness is to be found right where God has called you. If you are married, the Lord will provide your greatest opportunity to love and grow in holiness in your vocation as a spouse. If you try to live your life like a monk when you are called to be a spouse, you’ll be a terrible monk! And not only that, it could also be a “spurious devotion”, taking you away from the greatest love, despite your best intentions. The same applies if you are a student, living the single life, a single parent, a priest, a religious brother or sister, etc. Look no further than your own vocation and state to find where God is inviting you to discover the holiness he is calling you to. 

The first takeaway for us is to regularly come back to this question: where is the greatest love to be found in my life today? Where is God inviting me today to live out the greatest love in the life to which he has called me? 

Click here to read part three of this series: The primacy of relationship and charity in evangelization.






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