This month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, and last Sunday we heard 1 Corinthians 13 about love. So some thoughts about love are in order. Let’s skip over sentimental and romantic love and focus on Dorothy Day’s kind. She often quoted Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” When my father was dying, from his hospital bed he held out his hands and said, “These showed my love for you.” My dad was a factory worker who worked night shift. His hands were calloused, and often he had a fingernail that was black and blue. He never told me he loved me, but I knew it. In my family we were not demonstrative about our feelings for one another. My mother had nine brothers and sisters. I once overheard her say, “We didn’t hug and kiss or say ‘I love you,’ but we would die for each other.”
Love is the force that drives us to put others ahead of ourselves and to make sacrifices for their sake. It keeps a mom and dad devoted to their disabled son and to each other. It makes a teacher willing to work at a Catholic school instead of a school that offers a larger salary. It enables a parent to provide good meals and clean clothes for the family day after day after day. And it compels volunteers to work at homeless shelters and soup kitchens and in prisons. Love is not all pink and lace. It is blood-red and steel. And as Corinthians points out, love never ends. It overcomes obstacles like being unrequited at times. It plows through challenging circumstances. And it perseveres despite boredom, stress, or mockery. As Erich Fromm states in the Act of Loving, “It is one thing to fall in love, but it is another matter to stand in love.” The more we love, the more Godlike we are, for God is love. Villagers called our spiritual mother, St. Julie Billiart, “the walking love of God.” Hmmm. What do people call me?
Of course, our model for enduring love is the One called “this tremendous lover.” Jesus loved us to death.
As a prayer activity you might review your life and thank God for the love present in it.
How has someone showed you strong love?
How have you shown love in action toward someone?