Disinterested love: The theory of love in the thought of Saint Francis de Sales

Joseph S Kulathunkal, Fordham University


The dissertation examines Saint Francis de Sales' doctrine of disinterested love within the general theory of love with focus on the central components of devotion and anthropology in his spirituality. For Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor of the church, disinterested love means a loving attraction to a person or thing only because of the love of God. In order to understand the meaning, scope and importance of disinterested love, it is necessary to understand the nature of love in the Salesian thought. By love, de Sales means a movement of the heart towards what seems good. In scope and theme, Francis's concept of love portraying an outpouring and progress of the heart towards the good, aims at the possession and union with God. Love, therefore, is the beginning and end of the process of the total growth of the human person in his or her spiritual itinerary to God. Educated in Renaissance humanism in Paris and Padua, the Doctor of love uncovered the errors of Quietism and Jansenism and led seventeenth-century France into true devotion and the love of God during the years of the Counter-Reformation. Salesian devotion conceived as wholeness of life in Jesus for God has relevance for contemporary Catholic spirituality which seeks to unite contemplation and action, or more specifically, prayer and asceticism. However, a pivotal concept that is characteristic of Salesian spirituality is the centrality of the human person in the divine plan of creation; it is a consideration that marks de Sales as a Christian humanist. His works, notably the Treatise on the Love of God, have a direct emphasis on the human person created in the image and likeness of God.

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history|Religion

Recommended Citation

Kulathunkal, Joseph S, "Disinterested love: The theory of love in the thought of Saint Francis de Sales" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9137204.