Posts Tagged ‘Love’

I must confess that I devour books by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. He has a style of writing that leaves me feeling as though I have just been on a weekend retreat.

In recent comments to the Roman Rota (The Supreme Court of the Church), the Pope spoke of the role truth plays in relationship to love and the indissolubility of marriage:

“Without truth, charity (love) slides into sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell to be filled arbitrarily. This is the fatal risk of love in a culture without truth.”

Sex and marriage are not our own inventions, toys, or roles. We don’t each have our own rules that we make up as we go along. The truth of the matter is that God has a wise design for His creation, and yes, there are plenty of rules that are a part of that wise design to protect the holiness of marriage and marital union.

For our own sake, our love is most authentic when it is an expression of God’s eternal truths and not a grotesque sentimentalist shadow.

St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “In the end, three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love.”

The authentic Love of which both St. Paul and Pope Benedict speak begins with Faith. Lived faith. Practiced faith.

That faith then fills us with Hope, without which couples have no basis for facing an uncertain future together. And as Paul tells us, our Hope will not leave us disappointed.

That’s because Faith and Hope are the soil in which Love grows and comes to fruition, blessing us with its fruits of fidelity and belonging, of simultaneously defining ourselves by giving and receiving the gift of self. Love enables us to know ourselves and to perfect ourselves through daily acts of faith and hope, which are the driving force behind devotion.

And these acts of devotion, of love, drive out all fear, as St. Paul tells us.

Of course, none of this is possible without the truth of which Pope Benedict speaks. That truth is this:

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and for a purpose. That purpose is nothing less than eternal life with Him, after learning to love here on our Pilgrimage far from Home. He has given us the tools to learn love, our sex and sexuality being a large part of that.

Recognition of our complementarity in marriage is the key to mutual submission, which is an icon into the radical self-donation between the Father and the Son. In our radical self-donation, we generate and nurture new life, which is the iconic window into the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, as the radical reciprocity between Father and Son generates the Holy Spirit.

We come to know ourselves in relation to God by imitating the inner life of God, the life of the Trinity.

That is the great truth and dignity of or love. That is the foundational reality of a culture of life and a civilization of Love. That is what our efforts in the pro-life movement must ultimately have as their goal, nothing less than a civilization of Love.


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This morning I’ll be the keynote speaker for the annual communion breakfast at Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Mount Kisco, New York. I was asked by the pastor, Fr. Steven Clark, to deliver a few appropriate remarks concerning where we are in the mushrooming autism epidemic.

This isn’t a clinical seminar, it’s a communion breakfast, and so I plan to share our story of Joseph’s autism and its impact on our lives in every dimension: family, marriage, sibling, professional, etc.

Autism occurs within the context of family life and radically alters every single aspect of that life. It exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the marriage and family dynamic. It calls for a different dimension of parental love, and full-time involvement. I’ve thought much over these past seven years of Joseph’s autism and what it has done for us, for me.

It has taught me depths of love and devotion, of ferocious advocacy that I never would have thought that I had a capacity for. It has slowed me down as I was on a rapidly rising professional escalator, and taught me how to encounter Joseph in the inner sanctum of his fragile existence. He can’t just fall into line with the plans I had so neatly mapped out. This has been a derivative benefit for my wife and daughters.

Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov writes:

“Brothers, love is a teacher, but a hard one to obtain: learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.”

No words so completely capture the challenge of parenting an autistic child. Loving behavior doesn’t come to an autistic child the way it comes to ‘normal’ children. It needs to be handwired bit by bit. In teaching love, we learn love. In suffering with and for our children, we learn depths of love unfathomable but for the experience.

So why so many autistic children?

I believe that in His infinite Love and Mercy God is permitting this to happen as a means of rescuing us from ourselves. We are aborting 93% of all Down Syndrome babies, engaging in sex selection, experimenting with cloning, etc. We need to stop this, and soon.

Autistic children are Love’s answer to our designer approach for offspring, especially as there are no clear genetic markers or physical attributes to pick up in pre-natal testing. We are being given one last chance as a civilization to get it right, to learn the meaning of sacrificial love through a condition that strikes at the very heart of social communication, to walk ourselves back from the precipice of the abyss of narcissistic annihilation. We are being given the chance to learn the true meaning of human dignity and marital love, a love that creates new life and is large enough to swallow any imperfection that comes with that new life.

Such capacity results from being at peace with our own imperfections and having allowed ourselves to be the recipients of God the Father’s healing love. If we haven’t, we must begin there. Our hearts certainly have that capacity. We need to empty them first of the clutter that we amass when we turn from God, seeking instead fulfillment with things and egocentrism.

This may be our last chance.

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Saint Patrick's Cathedral

This morning I attended a three-hour prayer service and Mass in Our Lady’s Chapel of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The day was jointly sponsored by Lumina and the Sisters of Life.

Archbishop Dolan began the day by admonishing those in attendance to respond with love to those who have not yet come to the truth. He recounted a recent conversation with an abortionist who told him that the pro-life movement is winning because we are changing hearts. That’s true. But after the Archbishop spoke, we heard from several with broken hearts.

The older couple whose daughter was ashamed to say she was pregnant so many years ago and aborted. The husband was particularly poignant when he lamented that his daughter felt she needed to be perfect before she could be loved by them.

The husband who was the one to suggest abortion to his wife. The shared loss of dignity. He stated that there were no words to say “I’m sorry” in a manner that could encompass what he suggested and what they had done.

The friend who let her best friend go ahead with abortion for fear of sounding judgmental and losing a friendship.

The mother who spoke more to her baby than to us, telling her how very sorry she was, how the baby is never far from her thoughts so many years later.

The abortionist whose voice cracked as he recounted having to have talked himself into distancing emotionally from what he’d been doing. The obvious burden he bears, rejoicing in God’s mercy, but unable to shake off all of those deaths at his hands.

And so they came and went, a heart-wrenching procession of what some might derisively dismiss as ‘statistical noise’, which is to say an artifact in the numbers.


In truth, the sorrow was almost unbearable.

As I sat there, I silently asked for God’s forgiveness that I am so late to the table. I was also inspired by each presenter’s witness to God’s mercy; “An ocean of mercy,” as one presenter put it. That’s the beauty of Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular. We never stop proclaiming the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven, who is Love and Mercy. As I listened to the doctor speaking, I was struck by the thought that indeed God’s Love is infinitely greater than the worst sins of those among us.

It’s simply there for the asking. I thought of the older man lamenting how his daughter felt that she needed to be perfect in order to be loved by him. Now, if that man with all of his sins doesn’t require perfection as a precondition for love, how much less does God the Father expect us to do it all on our own before coming to Him? It’s impossible and even futile to try.

That was Jesus’ point in Matthew when He said, “If you with all of your sins know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks?”

Words to consider as we head into the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We ought not yield to despair over our particular failings, but drown them in the ocean of God’s Love and Mercy.

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