The 10 Best St. John Paul II Quotes on Love of All Time
In a society that applauds sexual liberty, excuses rape, defends same-sex “marriage,” and promotes contraception and abortion based on the loose definition of “love wins,” St. John Paul II reminds us that love is love only when it is lived through the lens of self-sacrifice. If we base our idea of love on attraction or other fuzzy emotions, we gravely misunderstand the truth about love.
We need only look to the Cross in order to discover what love – and Who Love – is. Jesus set the example of total self-giving to the point of death, and that is what we must do in order to truly choose love. We must die to ourselves in order to will the good of another person. As St. John Paul II so succinctly explained in his Theology of the Body, the opposite of love is not hate; it's using someone. If there’s anyone who knew how to describe love, it was him, so here are ten beloved quotes from this timeless saint on the most popular topic of all time.
1. “Darkness can only be scattered by light, and hatred can only be conquered by love.”
Hatred is a potent and (ironically) despised word, yet many of us carry seeds of bitterness and resentment in our hearts toward a person or people. This is often due to residual unforgiveness, but St. John Paul II related love to mercy as siblings. We actually extend mercy to ourselves when we choose to forgive, which in turn leads us to love.
2. “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”
Though most of us equate using a person with premarital or extramarital sex, we can also use people through manipulation, complacency, or apathy. When we take others for granted, we often end up using them to serve our needs, rather than considering how we might be called to oblige them. When we will the good of another person, we necessarily forget ourselves – our comforts, selfish desires, jealousy or pain, etc. – and instead desire to serve our neighbor or loved one through acts of charity.
3. “Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of real love.”
In a recent radio interview, I heard bestselling author Kevin Vost mention that the most-needed virtue today is that of temperance, because most of us are immersed in our gluttonous habits, which include food, sex, online gaming, and other indulgences. Chastity must begin as an act of the will, then become a desire of one’s heart, followed finally by a choice to refrain from intemperate behavior, both sexual or non-sexual. When we have conquered our inordinate sexual desires, we dwell in true freedom and are then capable of giving another person – our spouse – ourselves freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.
4. “Do not forget that true love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, but simply loves.”
It’s not simple for most of us to love in this way – without calculation, without complaint, without conditions. We prefer to have reciprocity in our relationships, so that we give a little, and they give a little. But if we love purely, truly, then we will give our all without expectation of any response, gratitude, or comparable gesture of goodness. It’s not that we permit people to take advantage of us, but rather that we respond to the Holy Spirit’s movements when He asks us to give a bit more…sometimes enough to hurt.
5. “Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings.”
It’s no surprise that the sacred institution of marriage is in shambles because of the attempts to redefine it to include any people who think they love each other. Marriage can only exist between a man and woman, and through this sacramental covenant, we become living witnesses of Trinitarian unity. The expression of marital love reflects God’s love through the conjugal act, which represents communion among God and each spouse. There is no higher representation of love between a couple than when they commit their lives to each other until death.
6. “Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
As one who writes about grief and redemptive suffering, I am often asked about the existence or benevolence of “a god” who would permit suffering and evil. My response always comes back to free will. God’s love for us is so immense that He doesn’t force us to always do what’s right. Instead, He wants us to act upon good when both good and evil are presented to us. That’s real love on both accounts – that God allows us to choose, and that we opt for loving Him over rejecting Him.
7. “The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person, the more true love there is.”
I never fully comprehended this statement until my daughters were born. There is a level of responsibility when one gets married, because the commitment is to defend and protect the spouse’s soul. But raising children presents an entirely new level of responsibility, because the infant is dependent upon his mother and father for everything, for his very life and sustenance. Knowing that God entrusted my husband and me with these two beautiful souls was initially very humbling, because we knew we not only had to care for their temporal needs, but their spiritual needs, as well. And this responsibility – to each other, to our family – bore the fruit of authentic love.
8. “Love is never defeated.”
This is an alternate way of saying “love never fails,” as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians. If we consider that God Himself is Love incarnate, and that God cannot be defeated; then therefore, love cannot be defeated. We will surely engage in warfare against the devil, the flesh, and the world throughout our time on Earth, but in the end, it is love that will prevail if we have lived a life of fidelity to the Lord.
9. “Open your minds and hearts to the beauty of all that God has made and to His special, personal love for each one of you.”
It saddens me to consider how a great number of people in our modern epoch do not believe in a personal God, but rather embrace some vague, impersonal “universe” as the spiritual guiding force in their lives. Without a personal God, we cannot possibly understand how deeply we are loved. We cannot know our true identity as reflections, as mirrors, of this God. When our hearts are open to God’s creation, including the universe, we necessarily see that He made the world and its delights as gifts of love for us.
10. “Take away from love the fullness of self-surrender, the completeness of personal commitment, and what remains will be a total denial and negation of it.”
It’s tempting to ride the wave of emotive “love” while it lasts, and then allow ourselves to move on elsewhere when it is "over". This is a selfish, rather than self-surrendered love, because it is based on feelings of warmth and affection rather than a decision to deny ourselves and work toward the good of our loved ones. Without faithfulness, love withers and dies.
St. John Paul the Great left us an incredible legacy in which he unfolds the depth and truth of love in his comprehensive work, The Theology of the Body. When we appreciate our authentic femininity and masculinity as reflections of God the Creator, when we embrace our sexuality through chastity and even celibacy, we bask in the freedom of love. We then know ourselves honestly and are able to give ourselves unconditionally to a spouse without physical or spiritual barriers. This type of vulnerability is a rare treasure, indeed, yet it is the essence of living and loving as full reflections of God in our culture today.