The Word: We have believed in love

Published 5:37 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

Ten years ago this summer, I was in Econe, Switzerland. It was an idyllically beautiful day. The sun sparkled on the nearby Rhone River, and Alpine mountain peaks glistening with snow dominated the horizon. I had not come only to enjoy the scenery, though. I had come to visit the grave of a French bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, who had had a profound influence on my life and thousands of others by preserving the traditions of the Catholic Church during the cultural revolutions of the 1960’s. Lefebvre’s motto, borrowed from St. John, was, “We have believed in love” (I John, 4:16).

I’m embarrassed to admit that at first these words of the Bible didn’t strike me as anything special. In fact, quite the opposite. To an inexperienced young adult who, at the time, had suffered little and known nothing of death or severe disappointment, they seemed completely obvious: why wouldn’t I believe in love? Of course God loved me, and of course I believed it, I felt it.

But a little bit of living proves that the “price of love is pain,” as Father William Doyle, a WWI army chaplain, wrote. Perhaps it was in reference to this idea that a priest-friend once told me, “Love is the greatest penance.”  Real love is rarely easy. To continue to believe in God’s love for us, even amid discouragement and seeming abandonment, is one of the greatest crosses we have to bear.

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Considering this lends a new meaning to Christ’s words, “Blessed are they that have not seen (and we can add ‘or felt’), and have believed” (John 20:29).  This applies to the moments when we cannot feel His love or His assistance, even when we want to and it seems as if we should. When we ask help to do His will, and are still left (apparently) failing, or unsure about what path to take, or are assailed by sadness and temptation, we begin to wonder why He doesn’t seem to help us. But maybe the help He gives us is not the relief from pain or feeling of victory that we were hoping for, but rather the help that we actually need.

Jesus is a Divine Friend, and we often do Him a great wrong by treating Him too humanly.  When He leaves us in this state where we feel abandoned, He is calling us to rise higher, by an act of faith in His Love for us, above our human feelings, and join Him on His Cross for the accomplishment of a spiritual victory which is truly Divine.  Read Luke 9:23.

“I believe in the love of Jesus for me, a love so great that His suffering and His merits become mine,” wrote a Benedictine priest in 1920. It is the same idea contained in Lefebvre’s motto, a reminder that something that sounds so easy and comforting is actually, in the light of our weakness, one of life’s great challenges.

Br. Maximilian Watner is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at