Years ago I sat in my grandparent’s kitchen, my grandmother was washing dishes when my grandfather came into the room. He walked up behind her and gave her a hug “My little bride” he said lovingly, with a big grin on his face. I knew then and there that was what I wanted – a love that would last.
My grandparents didn’t have a perfect life, they had sickness and health, good times and very, very bad times. They had seen war, grief, betrayal, hope, love and everything in between. But they had each other for better or worse and they made it through. For over 50 years they lived together. It wouldn’t be more than a year after that little scene in the kitchen that my grandfather would pass away and my own marriage imploded and ended in divorce. That was almost 15 years ago. Today I am happily married to a great guy who loves me and who I love very much. We have been married for almost eight years. I can’t help but wish that my grandfather had lived to see it.
There was more to my grandparent’s relationship than just a warm romance. There was a deep commitment. The summer before my grandfather died he and I sat in his truck while he messed with the something while listening to the radio. There were a good number of people visiting and my grandmother has never been known as one who manages stress very well. “You are hiding” I accused him when I managed to slip away from the house to go find some place quiet.
“Yeah, but you know, that woman has given me a lot of fine years.” Grandpa and my conversations were most commonly like that. One of us would say almost nothing and the other would comment as though a whole paragraph had been spoken. Yes, he was hiding because grandma would start picking up little things to be upset over and she would find a laundry list of things that he had to do right away if she could see what he wasn’t doing. And it bothered him, and he hated to see it and it had been getting worse with time. Dementia was slowly setting in and brought out most fervently during stress. And he was worried about her and he was a man with a great deal of honor and deep sense of duty. He had made a vow for better or worse, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t escape to the truck for a little while now and again.
Love like that isn’t the fruit of some chemical attraction. It isn’t based on the other person being “the one” or “right for me” or “making me happy.” Love that lasts that long even through bad times is something that requires commitment and work and at many times a sense of selflessness. I was reading earlier today this homily From Deacon Greg over at the Anchoress.
I appreciate the take they both have about the importance of love, perseverance and constancy. Our devotion to love. I have read a good deal this year on life being looked at from a “utilitarian” view and how dehumanising and therefore dangerous it is.
There was a time in my life where I viewed life’s value as having a great deal to do with one’s intellectual capabilities. This changed as I aged and most profoundly changed as I came to terms with my own daughter’s disability. It becomes almost a cautionary tale. Any of us at any moment could fall victim to an accident or illness and be the one without the ability to contribute to society in a utilitarian sense.
“Always remember, my dear young friend, that Almighty God loves you very much: for love of you He created the world, the sun, the stars, and everything else that exists. He made your parents; He made you; He gave you your soul and your body.
Therefore, your most important duty is to know God, to serve God, and to love God with all your heart.”
Bishop Morrow — My Friend, published 1949
Bernhard Plockhorst — The Good Shephard
I have always noted that in the dystopia literary works (Brave New World, 1984 and the like) that human relationship, human love is suppressed or redirected in some way. A people comfortable and confident in their love for one another and their love of God and of God’s love for them are not easily led away from what is good. We are made to love God and to love one another. The catechism itself begins with the exhortation to love and serve God. It is in this act that we find the expression of who we are, who we are meant to be, why we are here. All those pressing questions are answered so succinctly we are here, made, born, fashioned and formed to love and serve God. The life of every Saint points to this inevitable conclusion: nothing is more worth living or dieing for than the love of God and service to Him.
This is the most elemental, the most basic tenant of Catholic life. I don’t say that to exclude non-Catholic Christians or even non-Christians. The Church teaches that God has written the natural law in all human hearts, it is our natural state to long for what is good. But the Catholic expression has a fullness that exists no where else. We have the Sacraments instituted by Christ. We have the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is a miracle. It exists outside of time and space. It exists wholly and completely in the supernatural realm. It is a tangible expression for us to be able to partake in the divine love of God’s self-sacrifice over and over, it reconciles the beautiful impossibility of Christ being anointed the priest who sacrifices and the lamb that is sacrificed and the fruit of the earth feeding our body and the fruit of the spirit feeding our souls. All this bathed in love. For God so loved the world.
God became one of us, lives in all of us, we serve Him when we serve one another and when we fail to serve each other we fail to serve Him. He takes upon us each of our sins when we let Him. And it is this that makes it impossible for us not to be willing to forgive others when they harm us. How can I not forgive my fellow man when Christ has paid for those wrongs with His own blood? It is one of the mysteries of the Passion. When Christ paid for all my sins He paid for all my enemy’s sins as well. To hold those hurts against me against my fellow man is to hold them against Jesus Himself. Thus Christ redeems us not only for ourselves, but heals the hurts we have between one another allowing us to love without limit.
On Called by Name Fr. Kyle Schnippel shares a story from Whispers in the Loggia . This is on of those stories that made my heart happy while bringing tears to my eyes. Msgr Ed Petty passed away last week. From the Homily at his funeral mass there was this:
For Ed, Catholicism was thoroughly fun. And real fun is being a part of something greater than yourself. Belonging to the church is fun because it expands beyond the limits of this world. Ed knew the thrill of being a part of something that brings us together with all the angels and saints—the worship of almighty God in spirit and in truth….
I love that thought. The joy of being part of something so wonderful and magnificent. We are made for sacrifice and love. Hope, joy, faith and love.