In God and the World, his book of conversations with Cardinal Ratzinger who later became Pope, Peter Seewald asks:

Isn’t it remarkable, how in spite of our deep-rooted longing for love, we regard everything else as being more important: success, sex, status, money, power. We use almost all of our energy in learning how to reach these goals. And we devote hardly any effort at all to learning the art of loving.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger answers:

Many of the things you mentioned are short-cuts and substitutes. . . it is an essential part of man’s calling to develop his capabilities–and only thus can he fulfill his mission of loving.

Man is meant to develop and actualize the potential within him; he is meant to do something in this world. That’s because learning work skills and setting about a job in no way conflict with his basic task of loving, but give it concrete shape. I am only fulling my mission to love . . . when I become the person I am capable of being. When I am giving what I am able to give. When I open up those possibilities in creation and in the network of human relationships that help us to get through life together and together to shape the fertile capacity of the world and of life into a garden, in which we can find both security and freedom.

This basic impulse goes astray whenever this vocational education aims at no more than the acquisition of skills; whenever mastery over our environment, improving our earning capacity, and the pursuit of power become dissociated from the inner task of loving, from everyone’s being there for everyone else. Whenever power gets the better of giving. Whenever self-assertion, turning in on oneself, the collecting of things around oneself becomes more than the primary aim and, in this way, man’s capacity for loving is choked off. Man is then dominated by things and no longer knows how to value them properly.

It is important that we not see our abilities, our vocational training, as being in themselves merely secondary. Certainly, all our abilities and all the technological capacity of man should be kept in their proper place, in our minds, and ought not to become autonomous. Whenever power becomes autonomous and is the sole category of judgment for man, then it turns into slavery and is the opposite of love.

The above quote was taken from a section titled “How Do We Learn to Love?” in pages 190-191.

To find out how to develop and actualize your potential, and to become the person you are capable of being, go to Circles of Growth.

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