The Relentlessness of Love
This week's reflection is written by
Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.
Relentless. A predator in pursuit of its prey. An artillery barrage in the midst of wartime. An attack ad at the height of a campaign.
The quality of relentlessness is often associated with aggression and hostility, an unwavering pursuit of an outcome regardless of the possible costs, even if these be destructive. It is a mentality whose proper setting is seen to be an arena, in which there are clear winners and losers, whether this arena be in politics, business, or social networks. When confronted with obstacles, the approach is to raze mountains rather than move them or go around them.
This week, we celebrate the life of a man who faced plenty of possible walls before him in his life’s journey. Rival religious factions that appeared antithetical to his own, political authorities who envied his stature, a rising mound of responsibilities and other people’s problems that were laid upon his desk. And most of all, his own fears about his own salvation, his own struggles with anger and anxiety, his own sense of inadequacy.
Had this man chosen to face these barriers with the relentlessness that the world so often proposes, his name would have been soon lost to history. His legacy, no more than the bricks and stones left when people try to confront life with force alone.
Instead, he discovered a relentlessness far more powerful: the relentlessness of love. And not his own love, but the love of God, which is beyond measure. Because of this, we celebrate the great Doctor of Love, St. Francis de Sales, whose feast day we commemorated yesterday.
Perhaps his first real taste of this truly relentless love came as a young man, when he anguished over the fact that no exterior work of his could ever earn his salvation. He discovered that the relentlessness of divine love instead works in an interior way. It gently enters the human heart, not with the dreadful assault of an army, but with the patient knock of a lover who keeps knocking until the beloved opens the door.
Having discovered this love, it became the modus operandi and magnum opus of his life. When tasked with converting Protestant communities near Geneva, he vowed to do it solely with charity, not force of arms. When assisting Jane de Chantal to untangle the scrupulosities of her past spiritual life, he counseled her to do all through love, and nothing through force. When the Visitation was instructed to the cloister by ecclesiastical decree, he guided them to keep their inner spirit alive by cultivating an interior life hidden with Christ in God.
“To die to all other love, in order to live in Jesus’ love” became the guidepost for Francis’ life. To forsake the temporary relentlessness of power, and unite himself with a true love, God’s love, one that is truly relentless, for it never gives up on seeking union with its beloved, the human person, you and I.
St. Francis de Sales, Pray for Us.
For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion.
The love of Jesus Christ impels us.
-St. Francis de Sales, Preface to the Spiritual Directory