On Christian Self-Love.


38. May a Christian love himself also?

Yes, he may and ought to love himself; for Christ says: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." [See NIV.]

 ["To love our neighbor as ourselves means to wish him and do him, as far as possible, the good which we ought to wish for ourselves, and not to wish or to do him any evil." Q. 52 Catechism of St. Pius X.]


39. In what does Christian self-love consist?

Christian self-love consists in being, above all things, solicitous for the salvation of one's soul.

["First we must love ourselves and do what is essential for our own salvation, because without our cooperation others cannot save us, though they may help us by their prayers and good works." Baltimore Catechism. "We love ourselves as we ought when we endeavor to serve God and to place all our happiness in Him." Catechism of St. Pius X.]


40. Why must we be solicitous, above all things, for the salvation of our soul ?

1. Because the soul has been created to the likeness of God [Gen. 1:26-27], has been ransomed with the precious blood of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 1:17-19], and sanctified by the grace of the Holy Ghost; and 2. Because on the salvation of the soul depends our eternal welfare (Matt. xvi. 26).


41. What are we to do in order to secure the salvation of our soul ?

1. We must carefully avoid sin, and every occasion of sin ; 2. If nevertheless we have sinned, we must not delay to do sincere penance; and 3. We must earnestly endeavor to practise virtue, and to do good works. [See Works of Mercy, "But 'faith apart from works is dead'" CCC1815 quoting James 2:26.]

[Editor's note: Avoiding the "near occasion of sin" means to avoid situations, things, or people that may lead to temptation. For example looking at photos that are not pornographic but suggestive can arouse temptation and lead one to sin. Perhaps the same can be said of looking covetously at an expensive car that you cannot afford without harm to the family. Obviously we cannot avoid all situations that may provide temptation, but taking reasonable precautions are encouraged. However, some saints have left the world to avoid temptation and the enjoyments of life that distract a person from God and his work to become monks, nuns, and hermits. For example see St. Arsenius, Anthony of Egypt, and St. Francis of Assisi.]

1. 'They that commit sin and iniquity are enemies to their own soul' (Tob. 12:10). 2. 'Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day ; for His wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance He will destroy thee' (Eccius. 5: 8, 9 DR; NAB). 3. 'Wherefore, brethren, labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election' (2 Pet. 1:10).


42. May we also love our body and temporal goods in a Christian manner ?

Yes, we may, and are also bound to love, in a Christian and supernatural manner, our body and temporal goods, as health, property, and good reputation.

[Editor's note: Anything that helps us to serve God is worthwhile. For example, someone may try to raise, or earn, money but not merely for his personal enjoyment but to help the poor. They money is a tool to serve God; it is a means to a good end, not an end in itself, and not a means to something sinful. However, the person must use a just means to obtain the money because the ends do not justify the use of an evil means. CCC 1753-54.]


43. When do we love our body in a Christian manner?

When we love it, 1. Because it is the dwelling-place of our soul, and her instrument for the service of God; and 2. Because it also was sanctified in Baptism, and is destined for eternal glory.

He who loves his body in this manner will constantly subdue its unlawful desires, and thus, according to the admonition of St Paul, 'Present it a living aacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God' (Rom. 12:1).

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? .... You are not your own; .... So glorify God in your body." See 1Cor 6:12-20.]

[CCC 364 "The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
'Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honour since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day .'"][See generally respect for health.]
["CCC1004 In expectation of that day[resurrection], the believer's body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering...]
[Aquinas: "Now the nature of our body was created, not by an evil principle, as the Manicheans pretend, but by God. Hence we can use it for God's service, according to Rm. 6:13: "Present . . . your members as instruments of justice unto God." Consequently, out of the love of charity with which we love God, we ought to love our bodies also, but we ought not to love the evil effects of sin and the corruption of punishment; we ought rather, by the desire of charity, to long for the removal of such things."]

[Editor's note: Old spritual writers sometimes seem to say we should hate our bodies. They are trying to overcome our natural inclination to indulge ourselves. They are probably responding to statements in St. Paul on the dangers of the flesh. See eg. Romans 8. People should understand that it is not our physical self that we must hate but the tendencies toward sin and temptation.


44. When do we love the goods of this world in a Christian manner?

When we love them, 1. As far as all created things have their origin in God and are His gifts; and 2. As far as they serve us, to promote the honor of God, to assist the needy, and to fulfil the duties of our state of life.

He who loves the goods of this world in this manner will not turn his heart away from God, in order to seek his happiness in them, but will make such a use of them that on their account he will not forfeit those of Heaven. [See Human Solidarity, and temporance. CCC1838 "Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods." See generally, Respect for persons and their goods.]

[Aquinas says we should not love irrational creatures, but "we can love irrational creatures out of charity, if we regard them as the good things that we desire for others, in so far, to wit, as we wish for their preservation, to God's honor and man's use; thus too does God love them out of charity. "]
[CCC "2401 The seventh commandment ...commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property. Christian life strives to order this world's goods to God and to fraternal charity."] [Trent on 7th commandment.]
 ["But because you are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all earthly affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs you. Nothing so mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment to created things. But if you refuse external consolation [in earthly things], you will be able to contemplate heavenly things and often to experience interior joy." Imitation of Christ.]

45. What is opposite to this Christian love of one's self ?

Inordinate self-love.

[Editor's note: We should think about the hedonistic self-love that prefers personal pleasure over anything else. Many in the western world assume that luxury and enjoyment are their inherent right and must of necessity come first while the rest of the world suffers unseen. Self denial is often unkown, unless it is to serve the goal of greater wealth and pleasure later. However scripture tries to tell us this self-love is distructive. "You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter." James 5:5. See CCC 2545f.]

46. When is self-love inordinate?

1. When man prefers his own honor and will to the honor and will of God; 2. When he is more solicitous for his body and for temporal things than for his soul and eternal salvation; and 3. When he seeks his own welfare to the prejudice of his neighbor. 

This vicious self-love is the source of all sins. 'Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, traitors, stubborn, puiffed up, and lovers of pleasures more than of God' (2 Tim. 3:2-4). ["You must know that self-love is more harmful to you than anything else in the world." Imitation of Christ.

 ["If you seek this or that, if you wish to be in this place or that place, to have more ease and pleasure, you will never rest or be free from care, for some defect is found in everything and everywhere someone will vex you. To obtain and multiply earthly goods, then, will not help you, but to despise them and root them out of your heart will aid. This, understand, is true not only of money and wealth, but also of ambition for honor and desire for empty praise, all of which will pass away with this world." Imitation of Christ.]


47. Is every self-love that is not supernatural, vicious and inordinate?

No; there is also a merely natural self-love, by which we may indeed love ourselves, and all that belongs to us, in a lawful manner, though not meritoious. "Thus also thos who are evil know how to give (through natural love ) good gifts to their children." (Luke 11:13).

Application. Oppose in good time that pernicious self-love by which a person, in all that he thinks, speaks, and does, has not in view the honor of God or the welfare of his neighbor, but only his own self, and his pretended advantages over others. [Thus, avoid vainglory, which is "regarding of oneself with undue favor".]

Joseph Deharbe, S.J., Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion, Dchwartz, Kirwin & Fauss, NY (1876) Imprimatur, + N. Cardinal Wiseman, 7/29/1862. The text presented here is for religious and educational purposes only. All rights reserved. Any copyrighted material is used in reliance on 17USC107. The imprimatur above only applies to the orginal text , not the material in brackets.

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