Blessed John Duns Scotus

Franciscan Priest (1265-1308)

John Duns ScotusBorn in Scotland at the end of 1265 and received as a young man into the Order of Friars Minor, he was ordained a priest on 17th March 1291. After graduating at the University of Paris, he taught in the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Cologne. As a faithful son of Saint Francis of Assisi, he pursued the study of Divine Revelation with the most acute insight and published many works of philosophy and theology. He proved himself a fervent herald of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, an untiring promoter of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a defender of the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff. He was exiled from Paris on 23rd June 1303 because of his refusal to sign his name to the libellous attack made by Philip IV the Fair, King of France, on Pope Boniface VIII. Having dedicated all his energies to his teaching office in Cologne, he died there suddenly and prematurely on 8th November 1308. Already, during his lifetime the outstanding Christian virtues of this great Master of Theology had gained for him a high reputation for holiness, and within a short time after his death he was venerated in a public cult not only in the Seraphic Order to which he belonged but also at Cologne where he is buried and at Nola in Italy. This cult was confirmed by Pope St John Paul II on 6th July 1991.

From the “Ordinatio” of Blessed John Duns Scotus

Lib III, d. 28 q.un.n.2-3 Opera Omnia Ed. Vives XV 378b-379b

The essence and undivided nature of charity

Charity has been defined as the habit by which God becomes the object of our love, such as that of a lover intolerant of any other lovers besides himself (as for example in the case of a jealous man in love with a woman). But a habit of this kind would be both inordinate and imperfect.

It would be inordinate because God, the good of all, does not want to be the private good of any one person, nor does right reason allow one person to appropriate to himself this common good. It follows that a love that tends to regard this common good exclusively as its own property, neither to be loved nor possessed by any other, is an inordinate love.

It would also be imperfect because a person who loves perfectly wants his beloved to be loved. Therefore God, in infusing the habit of charity by which the soul tends towards Him in an orderly and perfect way, gives a habit by which He is loved as the common good to be co-loved by others as well. And this habit which is of God, leads an individual to want God to be held dear and to be loved also by others.

Therefore, just as the habit leads a person to love God in Himself in an orderly and perfect way, so also it leads him to want God to be loved not only by the person himself but also by anyone else whose friendship is pleasing to Him.

It is clear from this how the habit of charity must be single and undivided, because it does not concern itself in the first instance with a plurality of objects, but with God alone as the primary object and as the first good. Secondarily it then wants God to be loved and to be possessed in love by everyone else to the utmost of his power, because it is in this that a perfect and orderly love of God consists. And in willing this, I love both myself and my neighbour in charity, willing, that is, for both of us the desire and the possession of God in Himself through love.

Hence it is evident that it is by one and the same act that I want God and that I want you to want God. And in this my love is a love of charity, because out of this love I desire a good for you which is due to you in justice.

For this reason, my neighbour is not to be regarded as a second object of charity but rather as an object that is entirely incidental, because he is someone who is capable of co-loving the Beloved with me in a perfect and orderly way; and I love him precisely so that he can become a co-lover, In this I love him as it were incidentally, not for himself, but because of the object which I want to be co-loved by him. And in wanting that object to be co‐loved by him, I implicitly want what is good for him because it is due him in justice.


Lord God,
source of all wisdom,
in Blessed John Duns Scotus,
priest and champion of the Immaculate Virgin,
you have gained us a master of life and thought.
Grant that enlightened by his example
and nourished by his doctrine,
we may remain faithful followers of Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.