On Sunday February 14 the world celebrated St Valentine’s Day. It is the celebration of love and affection. Many declarations of everlasting loves have been pronounced during this day.
However, love is not a momentary fever. If that is love then we really can complain that love is evaporating from our world. Real love is far and far more than that. Let us let the Lord, through his living rays, the saints, to teach us what true love is.
The, love is what are our hearts were created for by Our loving Heavenly Father! St Therese of Lisieux tells us: Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for. If were were created to love, on the image and likeness of God, then true love demands from us to love until it hurts, on Jesus’ model. St Theresa of Calcutta reminds us: Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.
The intensity of love is measured not by passion but by how much it is able to give itself. Again, the Saint of Calcutta tells us: Intense love does not measure it just gives. Love is not a feeling or a dream. On the contrary, it is concrete and down-to-earth. It is to be given to the one who is close to us! St Theresa of Calcutta affirms: It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.
In conjugal relationship love is, first and foremost, spiritual and virtuous. The great Venerable Fulton Sheen observes: When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women. What gives love its dignity is, precisely, its commitment. St Pope John Paul II says: Take away from love the fullness of self-surrender, the completeness of personal commitment, and what remains will be a total denial and negation of it.
Since God is love, the latter is a great mystery. St Josemaria Escriva says: Don’t you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart – and very often degrade it – leave all that and come with us in search of Love! True love is a virtue which inflames everywhere by the love of neighbour. St Anthony Mary Claret says: Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders.
Love is learned when it is practices. St Francis de Sales states: You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves. Real love corrects. In the following quote from Augustine while one does not beat anyone however, if one says that he and she loves someone, he and she is to correct him and her. If any of you should wish to act out of love, brothers, do not imagine it to be a self-abasing, passive and timid thing. And do not think that love can be preserved by a sort of gentleness – or rather tame listlessness. This is not how it is preserved. Do not imagine that you love your servant when you refrain from beating him, or that you love your son when you do not discipline him, or that you love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, it is feebleness. Love should be fervent to correct.
Love is a process. It is built up, day after day. St John Paul II says: Love is never something ready-made, something merely ‘given’ to man and woman; it is always at the same time a ‘task’ which they are set. Love should be seen as something which in a sense never ‘is’ but is always only ‘becoming’, and what it becomes depends upon the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment. In conjugal relationship love is built among three persons, the couple and God, the Love and the Author of love. Venerable Fulton Sheen says: It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.
Love uncovers who we really are. St Thomas Aquinas says: The things that we love tell us what we are. Authentic love is geared to the salvation of humanity. St Catherine of Siena notes: Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind. Love always brings us to our knees to pray to God to give us the strength to collaborate with His love. St Teresa of Jesus tells us: It is not so essential to think much as to love much.
Authentic love is a journey each and everyone is called to undertake. Daily let us recite together the great encomium or that glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise on love, which we find in the First Letter to the Corinthians about love:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
If anything, this is our life compass which should help us navigate in life’s waters!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap