Exploring the Reaches of Love with Saint La Salle

“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least”

(attributed to Dorothy Day [1].)

Dorothy Day, photo from 1916

            There is a tenderness these days in College folks – in students, who have been battered by so many critical events these past days and months and look to studies as a source of sanity; in colleagues, stretched to the limits and so appreciative of the help of our own College essential workers, whether they be faculty leaders, ITS educators, administrators, staff assistants, facilities crew, janitorial colleagues, or public safety officers. We stand at the crossroads of what Saint Mary’s will become and what we do now and how we do it will leave indelible marks on that future. What if the seeds we plant now are seeds of love, so that when we look back, we could recall the mutual support and acceptance that got us through?

            The Lasallian Catholic tradition is there for the taking. Dorothy Day’s words hearken back to the New Testament. See Luke 6:38, “the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you.” Still what Dorothy Day said, especially in its original form cited in the end notes below, is a hard challenge. We believe in God’s prodigal mercy even for those miscreants who are stingy with their love, including ourselves. There are pathways marked out, though, for practicing God’s perfect love in our daily lives. Saint John Baptist De La Salle devoted an entire letter, written to one of his Brothers, with salutary counsels of love [2]. An abridgment follows, the complete text of which is available on line.

1 Dislike for our neighbor and resentment for wrongs done to us prevent our prayers from reaching God…. since he does not recognize the Spirit of his Son in us.

2 Adapt yourself with gracious and charitable compliance to all your neighbor’s weaknesses, and in particular make it a rule to hide your feelings in many matters of an indifferent nature.

3 Give up all bitterness toward your neighbor, no matter what, and be convinced that your neighbor is in everything better than you are….and it will give you the ability to overcome your feelings of resentment.

4 Each day look for every possible opportunity to do a kindness for those for whom you feel dislike.

5 Be especially careful to anticipate the needs of those who are weak, in spite of the natural aversion you may feel…. If you have to refuse some request, make sure that your refusal does not cause unhappiness.

6 Be sure to be warmly affable toward everyone, to speak to and to answer everyone with a very great gentleness and deference, keeping in mind the way our Lord spoke and replied to others, even when he was most harshly treated.

7 Never comment on the faults or the behavior of your confreres. When others speak of them, put a good interpretation on their actions, and if you cannot, say nothing at all.

Moraga, Saint Mary’s College Chapel, Founder Presenting the Rule to the Brothers

8 Never let another take the blame in order to conceal your own guilt…. Make it a habit never to defend yourself, much less conceal your guilt at the expense of others.

9 Unless necessity obliges you, do not ever complain about others in any matter at all, and should you be obliged to do so, do not make it a formal complaint.

10 However unreasonable the opinions and wishes of others may seem, if you cannot yield to them and at the same time keep your Rule, try to satisfy them with words spoken with gentleness and humility.

11 Should you happen to contradict someone or openly disagree with another’s opinion, as soon as you realize what you are doing, if you are still speaking, stop….

12 You are full of zeal, but it is not well regulated, because you want others to be reprimanded for their faults but do not wish to be reproved for your own. Put up with the faults of others, and be generous in the interpretation you put on them.

13 In short, take as your rule never to speak of the failings of others or to reprimand them, no matter how serious they seem to you. Whenever you see someone fall into some fault, call to mind what is said in the Gospel, “You can see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but you cannot see the beam in your own” (Luke 6:41).


[1] The saying is traceable back to a retreat experience that Dorothy Day had, as recounted by

John Hugo, Weapons of the Spirit: Living a Holy Life in Unholy Times. Selected Writings of Father John Hugo, ed. David Scott and Mike Aquilina (Huntington, Indiana: 1997), p. 145. The version of the quote remembered by Father Hugo is “The love you give to the one you love least is the measure of the love you will receive from God.”

[2] The Letters of John Baptist de La Salle, trans. Brother Colman Molloy, F.S.C. (Romeoville, Illinois: 1998),Letter 105, “To a Member of a Religious Community of Men,” pp. 219-221.https://lasallian.info/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Letters-reprint-2007.pdf

Photo credits: Wikimedia commons, Lasalle.org, and Brother Charles

One thought on “Exploring the Reaches of Love with Saint La Salle

  1. Dr. James Alan (Jim) Temple says:

    Dear Brother Charles,

    Once again … I find myself deeply moved by these words and suggestions. Thank you so much for your dedication to sharing all of this with us. I’m sure that you hear this a great deal, but I wanted to let you know what a difference this makes to me (personally) and to all of us (collectively). I take great comfort and pride in being a member of this community of models and mentors … this helps me aspire to be more and better than I am at present. This is no small gift … and as I said on All Faculty Day, it is this kind of sharing and modeling that makes me certain that I made the right choice in coming to teach at Saint Mary’s College. Thank you once again … take care of yourself, be well and stay healthy!

    Jim Temple


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