This book has been important to me. From it, I learned that loving the LORD, my GOD, is manifested by the love which I exercise in the intercourse with my neighbour. This was already a well-known idea by the time of Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). It is articulated in the first epistle, chapter 4, from John. Catherine puts this virtue into action in her role as a diplomat for Pope Gregory XI. She was a determined woman of great spiritual fortitude, and is an inspiration to me. Catherine joins the acts of loving God with loving our neighbour. She does this by setting the will to love our neighbor as an attribute of the love which we have for God. Her argument to support this premise is profoundly logical. In brief, we cannot love God as God loves us because she loved us before we loved her. We manifest the will of God by loving our neighbor, even before our neighbour loves us. Since this goes against our natural instincts as humans, it must be the love of God which is at work. In this way, we are loving God as he loves us, and in this way, his love is glorified. In Catherine's own words, as she relates a conversation she received, "And I, [the LORD, our GOD,] would have thee know that just as every imperfection and perfection is acquired from Me, so is it manifested by means of the neighbour...I require that you should love Me with the same love with which I love you. This indeed you cannot do, because I loved you without being loved...Therefore to Me, in person you cannot repay the love which I require of you and I have placed you in the midst of your fellows, that you may do to them that which you cannot do to Me, that is to say, that you may love your neighbour of free grace, without expecting any return from him, and what you do to him, I count as done to Me, which My Truth [the Christ, Jesus] showed forth when He said to Paul, My persecutor == Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou Me?"
This logic appeals to me, and has given me strength in my spiritual relationship. It is not easy to love the LORD, and even more difficult, sometimes, to love those we see everyday. Catherine of Siena has provided me with some tools that help me to make that happen. If you are interested in a deeper spiritual relationship, in the spiritual thoughts of a politically powerful woman, or in mysticism as it was practiced in 14th century Italy, this book will be interesting to you.