Category Archives: love

Teach us to love

St. Alphonsus Ligouri, whose feast is celebrated today, is notable for the place he gave to love in his moral teaching. It flows, I believe, from his understanding of God.

In a sermon, found in today’s Office of Readings, he tells us:

Since God knew that man is enticed by favors,  He wished to bind him to his love by means of His gifts: “I want to catch [humans] with the snares, those chains of love in which they allow themselves to be entrapped, so that they will love me.”

Today is also the anniversary of the killing in 1996 of the Dominican bishop of Oran, Algeria, Pierre Claverie. He was a proponent of dialogue and solidarity with Islam.

In a letter, shortly before his death, he wrote:

“That is probably what is at the basis of my religious vocation… I wondered why, throughout my Christian childhood when I listened to sermons on loving one’s neighbor, I had never heard anyone say the Arabs were my neighbors.
“It is my conviction that humanity can only exist in the plural. As soon as we claim to possess the truth or speak in the name of humanity we fall into totalitarianism and exclusion. No one possesses the truth; everyone seeks it.
“So that love vanquishes hate, one must love to the point of giving one’s life in the daily combat from which Jesus himself did not escape unscathed.”

In a world filled with hate and resentment, in a world that fears the “other” – especially if the other is a migrant or the other is from another religious tradition, these words need to help us grow in love.

It is not easy because it sometimes demands a change in us. As the martyred bishop reminds us:

“There is no life without love. There is no love without letting go every possession and giving oneself.”

May God give us the strength and the courage to love.

Love awakened

In this is love: not that we have loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10

Love is essentially God’s gift. Our love is a response to that gift and should reflect God’s love.

Today’s Gospel shows the love of God, Jesus full of compassion, feeling in the depths of his being for the people, without a shepherd. In his love he sought to feed them – but not without the cooperation of the disciples.

ShantiDas

Shantidas

Thirty five years ago today, on January 5, 1981, Lanza del Vasto died. An Italian he studied philosophy but really didn’t find his meaning in life until after going to India and meeting with Gandhi and other holy men. His pilgrimage is related in Return to the Source.

Gandhi gave him the name “Shantidas,” the Servant of Peace. Later, he and his wife Chanterelle, with others founded the Community of the Ark, as a kind of Noah’s Ark in the midst of the violence of the times.

The community eschewed many modern conveniences and sought to live a nonviolent life, finally establishing a community in a beautiful and isolated valley in southwest France. They lived without electricity (except to grind their wheat), families and single people, with a regimen of work and prayer.

But they did not isolate themselves from the world. Lanza del Vasto and the community participated in many nonviolent campaigns in France. He also went to Rome in the early sixties to fast for peace; he was given an advanced copy of Pope John XXIII’s peace encyclical, Pacem in Terris.

When I visited the community in 1973, I participated in the daily life of the community, praying and working in the garden. But the last day and evening I spent with community at a demonstration in the nearby Larzac, where the people were fighting against the militarization of their lands.

Shantidas’ message was not an easy one, but I think it was based in his deep faith in Christ, a faith which opened itself to all faiths.

An example of this is noted in this short description of love from his Principles and Precepts of a Return to the Obvious:

Learn that virile charity that has severe words for those who flatter, serene words for those who fight you, warm words for the weary, strong for the suffering, clear for the blind, measured for the proud, and a bucketful of water and a stick for the sleepers.

Love should wake us up to feel with the compassion of God and be of service to God’s people.

it is not easy – as Dorothy Day reminds us by her citation from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov:

Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thin compared to love in dreams.

May we wake up and love!

 

The joy of love for celibates

Although I have been celibate all my life, I will have to take a solemn promise of celibacy if I am ordained to the diaconate, perhaps next June.

Although this is a bit overwhelming, it is becoming more real and more fulfilling than I could have imagined.

It does have a downside, which Fr. James Martin attributes to Father Paul, the abbot, in his recently released novel The Abbey:

His novice director told him that the biggest challenge of religious life lies in knowing that you’ll never be the most important person in anyone else’s life.

That’s humbling – and a bit fearful since I would like to be considered important in others’ lives.

But it is not so much a question as being loved as loving in response to God’s love.

Today I came across this quotation from G. K. Chesterton’s Saint Francis of Assisi, which refers to the saint’s frolicking in the snow:

A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not: ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.

One of the most delightful scenes in the film The Great Silence is when the Carthusian monks frolic in the snow, laughing all the time.

Celibacy should not make us dour and sad. It should give us life and laughter. For a man or a woman will not – or should not – take a vow or promise of celibacy if she or he is not in love with God.

James Keating’s The Heart of the Diaconate is particularly helpful in considering this:

Celibacy is a way of being human; not a way of avoiding our incarnate state. Anyone who chooses celibacy for reasons other than being captivated by the beauty of God and looking into that beauty as one’s chosen pleasure is setting oneself up for disappointment and sadness

It’s a question of falling in love with the beauty of God.

And though he is referring to married deacons, Keating makes it clear that our love and the love of Christ for us are central to any consideration of celibacy – or, I would say, chastity, whether married or celibate:

Celibacy only makes sense in light of one being deeply affected by the Person of Christ; so affected, in fact, that the man receives from him the fulfillment of all desire. This is why one question for all married men seeking entrance into the permanent diaconate must be: Is Christ enough for you? Do you have or are you going to develop a contemplative prayer life deep enough to satisfy your spiritual-erotic needs for self-transcendence? This is mainly a question about vulnerability before the love of God and one’s own capacity for self-knowledge.

And so I ask myself: Am I open enough, empty enough, vulnerable enough to let myself be loved by God – and make him central to my being?

That’s my question today – as I prepare for being installed as a lector at one of the confirmation Masses this weekend in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María, one step on the road to the diaconate.

May God help me love and let myself be loved.

True love of neighbor

Every morning I try to read about the saints and events from the day. I have assembled my own calendar of persons, events, and quotes but I also rely on Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints and Richard McBrien’s Lives of the Saints.

I also occasionally read María Berta Arroyo’s Profetas para un Mundo Nuevo, the second volume of short accounts of the martyrs of Latin America.

The entry for September presents a lesson that we could all learn.

Fortunato Collazo was a leader of his neighborhood, Juan Pablo II, in the district of San Juan de Lurigancho.

In the early hours of the morning of September 14, 1991, a group of Sendero Luminoso guerrillas broke into his house to kill him.

Another leader, Alfredo Aguirre, was awakened and walked into Fortunato’s house.

The guerrillas told Alfredo, “Vete de aquí; es pleito no es contigo. – Get out of here. Our complaint is not against you.”

Alfredo responded, “Si es contra mi vecino es contra mi. – If it against my neighbor, it’s against me.”

Both were shot and killed.

Such love, such solidarity, such sense of our connectedness are so needed in our world.

What would it be like if took Alfredo’s words to heart?

If it affects my neighbor, it affects me.

Love one another

Today is Mothers Day not only in the US, but here in Honduras.

I was asked to share a reflection this morning at the Celebration of the Word in Plan Grande where I live. Padre German also asked me to share a reflection at the Mass this afternoon in El Zapote de Santa Rosa. Here are some of the thoughts that are running  through my heart.

The readings all point to God’s love – even the first reading where Peter, on encountering the Roman Cornelius, realizes that God makes no distinction.

We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us. Not because it is an obligation but because it comes from our experience of being loved.

For, as John writes (1 John 4: 10):

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us first and sent his Son…

If we are open to the experience of being loved by God we will be better prepared to love.

Often this experience of God’s love comes through our parents or others in our life. And so we are called to love so that others may experience, thought us, something of the love of God.

But this love is not sentimental.

For Jesus said in today’s Gospel (John 15: 12-13):

Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love for friends than to hand over one’s life for them.

Monseñor Romero

Monseñor Romero

We often look upon martyrdom as the ultimate sign of love. But I believe that one cannot give up one’s life at the moment of martyrdom if one has not been giving it up day after day.

As I prayed these words of the Gospel I remembered a quote of Monseñer Oscar Romero – soon to be beatified.

In his spiritual diary on February 25, 1980, less than four weeks before he was martyred, he wrote

My disposition is to give my life for God, whatever might be the end of my life. The circumstances [of the end of my life] which are unknown will be lived with the grace of God. He helped the martyrs and if it is necessary I will feel Him very close when I hand over my last breath. But worth more than the moment of death is handing over to Him all my life and living for Him.

It is not the moment of death that make a martyr a saint; it is the daily giving of oneself over to God and others that makes one able to be a martyr and a saint.

The message of Romero and the message of Jesus is not a one-time martyrdom but a daily dying to oneself and living for God and for others.

Romero did it by listening to the poor, visiting the people in their villages, welcoming the family members of victims of persecution, denouncing injustice from the pulpit, and living in a small house in a cancer hospital for the poor.

What would make us able to hand over our lives as martyrs? Or, better, how are we handing over our lives every day?

First love

You have left behind your first love.
Revelation 2:4

 In the beginning of the Book of Revelation, Jesus sends a message to seven churches in Asia Minor.

The first message is to the church at Ephesus, an important city in the region. In the city the church was struggling with the Nicolaitans, whose teaching was, as Pablo Richard notes in Apocalypse: A People’s Commentary on the Book of Revelation, “a pre-gnostic heresy that seeks to spiritualize Christianity in order to make it compatible to the empire.”

The Church has stood firm but it has lost, abandoned, or left behind its first love, the agape, the solidarity and love that first motivated them.

How easy it is to leave behind that first love, that spirit that inspired me to come here to Honduras, to be of service to those most in need. How important it is to recall this inspiration, this first love, so that it may grow even more.

In less than a month I will be moving out to the countryside, to live in a village in the parish where I am helping. The house is bigger than I need – but it is meant as a guest house and a place where people can come to rest.

But most of all it will enable me to be closer to the people, to be there more for them, since the town is in a central location in the parish.

I pray it will be an opportunity for me to return to that first love with a deeper sense of solidarity, with a greater commitment to justice.

Love Your Enemies

Remembering today the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a plane in 2001, recalling the US sponsored coup in Chile in 1973, and noting the massacre at the church of Saint Jean Bosco in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1988, today’s Gospel (Luke 6: 27-38) is one that most of us don’t want to hear.

love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you….
love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind
to the ungrateful and the wicked….
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.
…the measure with which you
measure will in return be measured out to you.

These words of Thomas Merton, in his essay “The Root of War Is Fear,” found in New Seeds of Contemplation and first published in The Catholic Worker in October 1961, give us a hint of why this Gospel is so challenging:

At the root of all war is fear, not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another: they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.

It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves.

When we see crime in others, we try to correct it by destroying them or at least putting them out of sight. It is easy to identify the sin with the sinner when he is someone other than our own self. …

So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above  all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed — but hate these things in yourself, not in another.

And so today it would be good to ask ourselves if we are willing to let ourselves be converted, from fear to love, from self-righteousness to mercy, from revenge to self-giving nonviolence.