Love

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Our culture has raised love to the highest pedestal. But not all love. Just Eros love. Romantic love and eventual marriage have been deemed the ultimate goal of life. And if you don’t find romantic love, if you don’t get married (whether or not by choice), you have failed. You will not be as fulfilled as your romantically matched cohorts. Your life will always be missing something.

We have forgotten that there are 4 types of love, and Eros is not better than the rest.

Storge: affection. This kind of love that comes with familiarity is common among family members or people who are brought together by chance. is the most natural of all the loves. It is not based on perceived value of the other person. It develops merely out of the familiarity that develops as you spend time with someone. It is not forced. My roommate expressed this love well. We took a class on an alternative therapy through our school’s center for spirituality and healing. We had to practice this therapy on others in the class. After, in a group discussion, she said that when she was practicing with me she had a deeper sense of caring than when she was practicing with classmates she did not know. She had a deeper desire for this therapy to heal me in whatever way I needed. We don’t consider ourselves best friends, but we have lived together for the last 3 years and have become familiar with each other. It was by no real effort of our own. It just developed over the years. This sense of compassion we have for each other is just a natural part of our familiarity. It is a simple, but profound, kind of love.

Phileo: friendship. This is the least natural of the loves. It is a love that we choose based on common interest and it is not necessary for the human race to produce. But because we choose it, it is that more profound. I think this love is far too often degraded by our culture of Eros. This love is seen as a second class love. This is love you settle for until Eros comes along, the leftovers. But if done right, Phileo love can be just as rewarding as Eros love. It can build character. It can give comfort in times of need. It is an art that the modern world has forgotten. As C.S. Lewis said, “to the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” We have fully downplayed this love and made it second-rate and expendable.

Eros: romance. This is the love between lovers but it is not merely sexual attraction (Venus), though that is surely part of it. It is the feeling of being in love. It is the difference between wanting a man,and wanting one particular man. This is the love that our culture strives for. It is the love that we believe will bring us the deepest fulfillment and unimaginable pleasure.  We have made this love a throne and if not careful, this borderline obsession can lead us astray. Eros can lead to good things (holy marriages, children, compassion, etc) and it can lead to bad things (eg. depression if not found, jealousy, etc.)

Agape: charity. This is unconditional love. This love shows caring regardless of the situation. It is taking care of someone even if you know they can never return the favor. This love holds back a harsh word spoken out of anger. This love says, “You had a long day. Let me do something for you.” This love does not end because the other did something to upset you. This love does not seek to gain for itself, but to serve the others needs. This is the love that we really all yearn for. This is the love the 3 other loves must be subordinated to. This is the love that Jesus called us to. This is the love with which God loves us.

I am finally starting to learn that marriage and Eros are not all that matters. Not everyone is called to marriage. And that’s ok. A life without marriage does not equal a life without love. We can all start learning to love well in all of our relationships. We can all start learning to love with Agape love. We can all learn to love with a sacrificial love that puts the other before ourselves. And then if Eros does come along, we will be ready to love that person properly. And if it doesn’t, we will know that we have not failed. We have loved, and loved well.

The Church, our Mother

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The Church has been entrusted with the care of souls. Her mission is to protect God’s children (that’s all of us) and to guide us safely to His kingdom. So, that means she has made some “rules” for us. She has established guidelines meant to help us live holy lives. That does not make her a bully as some people like to think of her. It makes her a good parent. And like any good parent, she does not bend just because we decide to throw temper tantrums over rules we don’t like and think are unfair. And believe me, I’ve had my fair share of temper tantrums.

She also does not make us follow the rules. It is all up to us. After some of my temper tantrums, I then go ahead and do things my way anyway and it always results in my own detriment and more often than not, someone else’s detriment as well. Because, believe it or not, there are reasons for these rules. They are not arbitrary rules meant to keep us under her oppressive thumb. They are meant to make us the best we can be, to help us to be the people God created us to be. They are meant to build us up and are for our own good, even if we can’t see it in the moment. They are meant to help humanity flourish and reach its full potential.

And like a good parent, she is always waiting and ready to welcome us back, no matter how many times we run away. She does not force us to come back. But she invites us to and lets us decide from there. The light is always burning in the window, telling us that she has long-awaited our return.

It is my prayer that more people will take the time to find out, openly and honestly, why the Church teaches what she teaches. The reasons are rich and deep. You may find that you still disagree, but at least seek the reasons and know that everything she teaches is out of love, never hate. It is my prayer that more people will seek the truth and beauty in the motherhood of the Church that can be found when they dare to go beyond the surface.

How do you Know He Loves you?

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It’s been one of those days when I question God’s love for me. I know intellectually that he loves me, but my heart doesn’t always feel it. Luckily, love is not ruled merely by feelings. As I lay there pondering God’s love for me, part of a song from Disney’s Enchanted started going through my mind. My thoughts are in parentheses.

How do you know he loves you? How do you know he’s yours?

Well does he take you out dancin’ just so he can hold you close? (They say life’s a dance and that God wants to hold you close through it, so…yes?)

Dedicate a song with words meant just for you? (well there was that week in late January when you finally started to let God heal your old wounds and it was painful and that song “How He Loves” kept playing through your head for no reason and then they played it at the SPO event [hadn’t heard it there before or since]. And now it’s kind of like our song. So YES!)

Obviously real love amounts to more than these things.  But it was what I needed at the moment. And God does show us His love by sometimes giving us “humanly” signs of affection that we long for. It’s pretty cool the ways in which God speaks to us. He can use the seemingly most random things to remind you of his presence.


I wish people broke out into song all the time

our song.

Gifted

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We are all gifted.

This is a reminder I need to give myself often. We are all created in God’s image and have all been given dignity. Nobody can take that away from another. No personality trait can wipe it away. I have a tendency to judge others, often before I even get to know them. Something about them might irritate me and so I focus on that annoying trait and avoid them or I don’t treat them lovingly. But no matter how annoyed I get by someone, no matter how mad they make me, they still have human dignity. They still have gifts and I need to be better at looking for those gifts God has given each person, and not at the traits that annoy me. Because those annoying traits are more my own issues than that person’s. Lord, give me your eyes to see each person I meet as you see them. Let me not judge others by their looks or perceived intelligence or whatever other standards I have. Lord, free me from the culture of use so I may honor each person’s dignity and love them as you have called me to. Amen.

Trust Him

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Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen

Ephesians 3:20-21

The Lord is faithful. Even when I doubt His ability to deliver, He provides and so much more so than I could ever hope for. This is a lesson I have been shown again and again.

I recently applied for the Saint Joseph Worker Program. But I began to doubt whether this was a wise move because I would put off starting my nursing career for a year. Sure, I could get assigned a volunteer placement site within the healthcare field, but none of the already designed positions I qualified for (some required fluency in Spanish) were for nurses. I feared that I would not get the experience I needed to begin a career once my year of service was over. But the Lord is faithful. He provided me with 2 possible sites that are willing to find ways for me to use my nursing skills. But even so, I questioned if not working for a year was a good idea. Would I be able to find a job in a children’s hospital if I spent a year outside of that setting? Would I really be able to develop the skills that I think I need if I’m working in the community? Can I really put off starting to pay back my loans for a year? But I met with one of the sites today. And it looks something amazing could happen if I choose to work with them. And I’d still get to work with kids. There is also a possibility (though I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch) that if all goes well, I could make a career with this organization. That is not something I’d even dared to dream of until now. The Lord saw all of my fears and He met my needs. He knows what is keeping me from trusting Him and is removing that from my path.

How many other areas of my life am I failing to trust Him with? I know that no matter what my plans and expectations are, God will deliver in a way that is so much better than I ever imagined in every area of my life. God is good. I need to stop worrying so much.

 

They will know that we are Christian by our love

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As I was doing my personal prayer this morning, I started to reflect on the way we evangelize. It seems that as a whole, Christianity has resorted to shouting about God to the people around them. You have people on street corners yelling angrily about sin, judging everyone who passes by and condemning them to Hell. You have people cornering others so that they can share the Good News with them through the latest gospel tract. I’ve heard people say that they feel forced into listening, like they are being coerced into believing in God.

Don’t get me wrong, I think people need to know that they are sinners. I think that people need to know the there is hope in Christ who came to save the world. But I think we go about it wrong. God doesn’t force us to believe in Him or to love and trust Him. And I don’t think he wants His followers forcing people to either. God shows us His love and through that we come to see that He exists and that He can be trusted. He gains followers by being who He is. And if people continue to reject Him, He lets them, but He never stops loving them. I think what we need to do is to learn how to love again. We need to show people that we truly care about them. When they feel like you’ve taken the time to get to know their story and when they feel like you’ve listened and love them, then they will be more open to what you have to say. And if they still don’t like it, we still need to show them love and compassion, because God never stops showing us love and compassion. We are relational beings, made in the image of God and we need to start bringing people to God through relationship.

Approaching people on the street may sometimes work, but we have a tendency to keep pushing, even when they’ve told us they don’t want to talk to us. We need to learn to walk away, to accept rejection. And shouting on the streets may seem like the only way to reach people in this world where there are so many views being shouted. But that’s just it. Everybody is shouting. The way to reach people is to show that there is something different about you. Something has changed you and that draws people in. Something about the way you live is mysterious and beautiful. And through that people will see that Christ has changed you and He will be glorified. They may even decide that they want this transforming relationship as well.

They will know that we are Christian by our love. Let’s start showing love.

The Papacy: It Makes Sense

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At least if you believe in God and His infinite wisdom. Even if you don’t, you probably understand the importance of having a leader.

With the new pope being introduced today, I can imagine that a lot of my Protestant brothers and sisters are praying for us Catholics to learn that our hope and faith are not in the Pope, praying that we abandon the papacy. They’re right in one way. Our hope and faith is in Christ alone. But it is because of that faith that we love our popes and the papacy. When Christ was about to end his earthly ministry, and was about to ascend to Heaven to take his place at the right hand of his Father, he told Peter to feed his sheep (John 21:17). Christ understood human nature. He, in his wisdom, knew that we would be easily led astray when he was no longer walking among us. So he commissioned Peter to lead us, to represent him and to guide Christ’s sheep. If Christ knew that the Christians who lived only years after his earthly ministry, many who saw him at work firsthand, could be led astray and gave them a leader, why would he not want that leadership to carry on through the ages? It has been nearly 2000 years since Christ walked the earth. It is likely that, since none of us walked with Christ on earth, without a leader to keep us from going astray we would wander far from the path. Without a leader to guide us, there would be countless factions within the christian world. There would be groups claiming that they’ve got it all right and constant divisions. But we all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25). So it makes sense that the role of leader of the Church would be passed on through the ages.

And Peter did not lead on his own. He had the other apostles to help him. And likewise, we have apostles in our day. They are the cardinals and bishops of the church. Together they help Christ’s sheep stay on the path. They keep us from being led astray and devoured by wolves. But more important than the other apostles, he had the Holy Spirit. This apostolic succession and papacy is not a man-made institution. It was started by Christ and remains guided by the Holy Spirit. The Third Person of the Trinity is involved in the selection of the bishops and the pope just as he was when the apostles replaced Judas (Acts 1:23-26). The method of choosing new apostles may be different, but the guidance of the Holy Spirit remains. He knows what the Church needs and gives it to her. And Christ promised Peter that the gates of Hell would not destroy the Church (Matthew 16:18) and that promise has held. Though there have been times when it seems the wrong man (even a terrible man) has been chosen for the role of leader, the Church is always protected because the Holy Spirit never stops guiding the ones guiding us. No matter who sits in the chair of St. Peter, the teachings of the church will always be in line with the will of God.

My faith was not in Pope Benedict XVI. My faith is not in Pope Francis I. My faith is in the wisdom of Christ and the promises he made to Peter. And so I look to the Pope and the bishops and the Church they lead to keep me from going astray, for they are the chosen representatives of Christ, the King of Kings.