Ubi Caritas et Amor Deus ibi est

The other day I was thinking back upon my days of school, and also the school motto ‘ubi caritas et amor deus ibi est’ which they translated from Latin to mean ‘where there is love and kindness God is there’ however my friends at google translate suggest it means ‘where charity and love are, God is there’. Either way the point of what I am about to say remains the same.
Whilst contemplating this piece of Latin text I realised that it causes a problem. Being the motto for a Catholic school the motto if taken to be true could disprove a fundamental Catholic belief (providing we add a few implicit premises to the mix). On the other hand if we take the motto to be true aswell as the fundamental Catholic belief then the motto itself becomes redundant, thus needs not be expressed. Now please allow me to explain.


The belief I call into question here is that God is omnipresent, therefore God is everywhere. Now if the motto is true it suggests that God is only where we find love and charity (or love and kindness) and thereforth God cannot be everywhere disproving the Catholic belief that God is omnipresent. However if we take the claim that God is omnipresent to be true, as any good Catholic would and should, then God would be found where there is love and charity (or love and kindess), but as God is everywhere this goes without saying, hence the motto is now redundant as it adds nothing new to the nature of God.

Posted on September 3, 2012, in linquistical, theological and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I believe the idea of this quote is to emphasize that wherever love and charity exist, God is manifested there as well. It’s not saying, as in your first option, that it is only there that God is to be found — as you pointed out, that would not agree with the doctrine of omnipresence. Although I would agree that yes, it is redundant — for the reasons you gave — the point is that if you live a life of love and charity, then you will see the presence of God wherever you go. For one who does not abide in love will not see God anywhere. It’s about your personal perspective — irrespective of whether or not you love or believe in God or whatever, God is there; but if you choose to accept the love that is already naturally in your heart and is your true nature, then you will see that God is everywhere and is in fact everything, including yourself. Although some Christian philosophers may disagree for some reason, God is everything — and you yourself are God! I suggest you read Spinoza for a Christian perspective on Monism, Melissus and Parmenides for a Greek perspective, and any of the Upanishads for a Hindu perspective. Love and light! 🙂

    • Many thanks for taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated 🙂
      I acknoweldge your point that the quote was designed to emphasize that where love and charity exists God is there and agree with you that is most likely the case. However the point I was trying to make was more of a lingusitic one – always be careful about how you word things – rather than a theological one. Perhaps I should have made this more clear, my apologizes for not doing so. Also regarding your comment about Spinoza I have had the pleasure of reading some as well as Parmenides but as it was some time i fear my understanding may have become a little rusty so shall endeavour on a re-read in the near future and amend my opinions appropriatly. Furthermore in your comment “and you yourself are God” has some semblence to Kant, Nietzsche and even Buddhist philosophy, are you familiar with these perpesctives? If not I could recommend some fine texts to you on all three.
      Once again I thank you for your comment 🙂

  2. Regarding your second point, redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious (though what one person thinks obvious may not be to another and I think that is true here). But omnipresence is an abstract concept whereas loving kindness (another translation) is active, i.e. manifests itself in actions, which are a more concrete expression of what might be termed ‘God’. Therefore I don’t think the statement is redundant, it is just one of the ways in which humans try to articulate God’s omnipresence.

  3. Josefina Quimson

    If love, or charity or mercy is in us .then God is in us, because God is love and mercy and charity .if this is not in us then God is not in us. He is everywhere .no doubt for believers. The question is , is He in us .May the love and mercy of God be with us always .

  4. Hi: I was looking for information about the origin of this phrase when I found your post.
    I´m not a philosopher but just a catholic person.
    It´s my undertandog tha omniprescent does not mean ” is everywhere” but can be in multibles places at the same time. I´n not omniprescent. If I´m at work I´m not at home. But God can be in multiples place simultanealy. He can be in our hearts… if we let him. He can be among us…. if we gather in his name. So this motto says we will find him creating a loving and charitable environment. Take in consideration that caritas ( charity derives from this latin word) means more the give to those in need. It means, involving, caring, understandig, and sharig.

  5. While I see what you’re saying, it’s stating that where love and charity IS you will find God, not where love and charity is, is the ONLY place you will find God.

    Hope that makes sense and helps?

    • Thank you for your response, always welcome and much appreicated.

      I totally understand that the meaning is as you say, however it is based on an implicit premise which the reader has to assume for granted (which in the most case will be). But because it is an implicit not explicit premise based upon how language and logic work you can see how the confusion can arise.

  6. I don’t think the point of the line is doctrinal or philosophical. It is probably poetic. It’s a beautiful line that is to be felt. But, if we must analyse it, I think that it is neither contrary to the divine property of omnipresence nor redundant. I have this feeling (a poetic instinct, if you will) that the one who first said it was trying to say that where love and charity are, the presence of God is so much more perceptible to our fallen senses to the extent of being powerful enough to elicit this line from the tongue of the one who experiences it.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents. 🙂

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