As I Have Loved You
The handsome and dashing actor, Ricardo Montalban, once was asked: "Who were the greatest lovers you have ever known?" Immediately, he responded, "My mother and father. They were happily married for fifty-six years. Yes, they were the greatest lovers I have ever known." The interviewer must have been startled and quite disappointed by the reply. Yet, the answer reflects the true definition of love that would have been instilled in Mr. Montalban and his parents by their Catholic faith.
Compare that reality with the one of a young woman of my acquaintance who has lived life in what one would call the "fast lane." Her many well-to-do lovers(?) showered her with expensive gifts and trips to romantic settings. On one occasion she made this utterance surprising in its frankness and insight: "I don't know that love is." How remarkably accurate her comment was. In my opinion, it is only those hearts that have made abundant room for God that can experience the breadth and depth of the mystery of love.
In the light of this truth, I wish to share with you these Valentines:
- On a Sunday morning before Mass, I noticed a mother and child entering Church and then I spied what I believed to be a particular expression of love. The mother and child stopped at the holy water font and I watched as she taught her daughter how to dip her finger into the holy water and to make the sign of the cross. A living, spiritual vignette of a mother's gentle step in nurturing her child with an eternal faith.
- A common priestly duty is to minister to hospitalized parishioners. After one such visit, I was exiting through the emergency room complex and I cold not help glancing at the concerned faces of those who have just conveyed a loved one or someone they cared about through those doors. Each countenance was etched with a look of intense, prayerful love. Their eyes betrayed a spiritual and emotional absence from the place their bodies occupied. Beyond their fear and anxiety, their hearts radiated a love that reached out to soothe a suffering soul. What a quiet yet magnificent display of love in the mist of sadness. I joined their prayers; hoping that soon they would hear comforting news.
- Love out to arrive at a certain maturity in the relationship of adult children with their aging parents. The neediness of childhood and the bravado of youth often yield to mutual discernment and empathy. Commonly in this stage of life, the meaning and demands of love are refashioned. During my parents last years of life, I evolved into a person who acquired the talent to be a learner and a teacher, a recipient and a caretaker, a follower and a leader. Wisdom and love flowered.
- For marriage to survive, love must be rooted deeper than any disappointment, upset, or anger. It is this that leads troublesome times neither to destruction nor settling, but to healing. The work of foregoing forgiveness may be the greatest example of love between people. I am reminded of the words of Francois De La Rochefoucauld: "We pardon to the extent that we love."
As the two saints bearing the name Valentinius died for love of God, let us pray that love may be recognized as the dominant force in this world. Let us pray that a time will come when the world may find peace not based on threat of mutual destruction, but on the foundation of mutual love. Let us pray that people may form their interactions on what Jesus taught us to be the greatest of all commandments: "Love one another as I have loved you."
"Church is boring," a young boy said.
Upon the pew he laid his head.
What could this child have known of worth.
When ll of good to him is mirth.
No heed he pays to each prayer said;
Cares not for thoughts of hope or dread.
He does not note the grateful sighs,
Nor tearful pleas in nearby eyes.
Toys and games and childhood pranks
Distract his will from giving thanks.
Much must he learn of love and joy
And sadness too will touch this boy.
Though diffused his thoughts do seem,
He shares the hope his parents dream:
That when he finds all colors fade,
Faith will bear him in life's parade.
For in this sacred place does lie
Mysteries beyond his eye.
Where divine and human meet
Sharing truth and love complete.
Shallow his pond of faith may be,
God's plan reveals a wondrous sea.
If by bent one leans to scoring,
All in life but Church is boring.
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