“How could it be that He would made everything that is, would want you or me for a friend? But he does, and he proves it by laying down his life. That’s the God we serve. That’s the God who wants to be known.”—Fr. John Riccardo
Learning things in school is actually really useful.
What is man? What is man? But a… Love using, love-making, love-misusing animal Inventor of the negative, revolving our lives around what we can’t do But unknowingly, we can, with the Truth Purely innate with us Naturally, emphatically But why do we separate ourselves from this - our natural condition? Our purity, our sanctity - torn from us by instruments of our own making Why do we complicate life unnecessarily? Constantly scoping who’s above us, who’s below us Why can’t we just let ourselves be? The human fruit, rotten with perfection This is man. This is man. Infinite desires. But with infinite desires must come Infinite Satisfaction
"We met over Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was in Starbucks with my nose buried in the book, and she came over my shoulder and whispered, "Don’t Panic!"
…I did. I had never seen anyone so beautiful. I invited her to sit down, though, and she did, and we talked about the book and some of our shared interests— how we share the Ninth Doctor in common as our favorite; how we both love caramel in our hot drinks, even if it’s a spring day; how we both like winter best and would I like to go see the orchestra with her? It’s where she was headed anyway. I said I’d love to, I go to this Starbucks all the time because it’s right by to the concert hall.
"Who are they playing?"
"Beethoven and Grieg."
They could have been playing anyone and I would have said yes.
And that was our first date.
Next week, it’ll have been forty-two months ago. Our forty-two month anniversary. Three and a half years.
Next Friday I’m going to ask her to marry me at the Starbucks where we met, right before the orchestra concert we have tickets for.
It’ll be our forty-two month anniversary, and I’m going to ask her to marry me because she’s my answer to life, the universe, and everything.
“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”
I was sitting in mass in awe (as usual), just reflecting about how ridiculously blessed I am to be surrounded by such beautiful people (inside and out) in my life. Truly, I yearn for these simple moments of realization. And I thank Him constantly for my day-to-day interactions with people. For simple moments of light-hearted conversation. For the opportunity to share pieces of our lives, minds, hearts - genuinely. For communion with one another. For imperfect people being with other imperfect people, yet loving and embracing each other the same.
And I got to thinking: this is what life is truly about. To be and to share in being without searching how one can be of “use” to another - no! Because we are useless in the ultimate scheme of things. We’re born, we live, we die. We were created not for use, but out of love of a divine and merciful being. We are not meant to be used and were never meant to be used in the first place. The point is, we have no point - but to simply be. We are creatures made out of love for the sake of love. And this gets distorted when people constantly search from some exterior, “greater” purpose in humanity, when ultimately our sole purpose is just to be - to exist. That is our greater purpose - to be. That is what God calls us to do. It is no wonder that we get in fits about institutions and the superstructures of religion, arts, and politics. Because they are merely institutions that offer the “best” way to be, the “normal” way to be. To live. And the beautiful thing is that we each take our own journey to achieve this state of being uniquely our own. And it is with our own interactions and immersion within the world that constructs this road towards the Truth, the Ultimate Being that brings us to ourselves - that is God.
This is what I believe the human experience is about. For though we experience so much heart-wrenching pain and suffering, at the same time, we are able to experience the magnificent phenomena that is Love. It is better to have experienced torment and love, than not to have had experienced Love at all. And amidst this experience, we must love and guide each other towards this ultimate Truth, Beauty and Goodness. This is what we are called to do on our short time here on this earth - to love one another so deeply to the point of Truth.
Hook-ups, booty-calls, one-night stands – these words are all too familiar in this culture, especially in the college scene. “It was just a one night stand, no big deal.” “I met her at a party. She was cute.” Divorce rates are at the highest they have ever been. “Irreconcilable differences” has become a phrase all too familiar to us, especially to the little ones. It is a bit terrifying to accept that our culture has come to such complacency and comfort with these ideas. Why do they call it “making love”? Are we truly creating love in these actions?
I believe that humanity begins with the couple. Life literally gushes forth from the unity of a man and a woman. They build family structures that are meant to cultivate humane beings to continue the progression of humanity, society and all that is good; which boggles my mind as to why we carelessly toss around relationships and marriages as if it is not imperative at all. It all begins in the relationship between the two. However, preceding the couple is the pursuit – the lighting up of the eyes when they pass you by, the fumbling of words, awkward greetings, the rush of cracking open our ribs and pouring ourselves into one another, and that moment when galaxies collide and it just… “clicks”.
What beautiful creatures human beings are, and how we are made even more beautiful when we experience these spectacular feelings. But that is the thing – they are just feelings. To some, it is conviction enough to act upon. But we are sophisticated beings, are we not? Are we not beyond our physical beings? Human law – what is right – may require humans to go against our natural appetite – our feelings. It is quite a harsh philosophical truth that I continuously struggle with day to day. However, it is universally known that feelings are as changing as the ebb and flow of a river. I have personally experienced the distraught in someone’s change of heart towards me, and vice versa. As good and glorious feelings are, its expiration date shakes me. For this reason, this type of commitment makes me hesitant. I believe in forever. I believe in eternity, which is why I take relationships and marriage seriously, possibly too seriously. Will my significant other love me regardless of the mistakes I will make down the road? When Father Time has eaten away at my body? For that matter, will I be able to love my better half during those moments when they are not making anything better?
These questions all boil down to the ultimate question – what is love?
It is a subjective question and it’s near impossible to fully answer. Some believe love is a strip club, while others believe love is eighty-nine years of marriage. Through much observation and introspection, I constantly grapple with this question and all I have to offer is the fruit of these reflections.
I firmly believe that love is a phenomenon of the divine. I believe it is an essence transcendent of humanity. Naturally, my Catholic faith has made a large impact on my thoughts and ideas, however love is not merely an idea that has been brainwashed into me. You cannot tell me that the humanity that created “Jersey Shore” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” had anything to do with the creation of love. I might be too severe on our humanity, but I believe it is a pure and priceless gift not of this world. It is something that cannot be bound by mere folderol such as time, feelings, arguments, paperwork, and the like.
I believe love, in its most pure state, to be self-sacrifice. This humility, this dying to one’s self, is what creates life within beings – a life-giving kind of love. Love flourishes in those moments when we stop selfishness dead in its tracks, recollect from nonsensical arguments, and instead, together, find a way to conquer it. Love flourishes when one has kept their thoughts away from themselves and instead, concern themselves with the sufferings of another. I see love in vulnerability and honesty. I see love when a man and a woman wait until marriage to offer themselves fully and purely only to one another. I see love in a husband who remains true to his promise at the altar and continuously offers himself to his wife even when that passion and “fire” has long burned away. It is activity. It should be constant. Love surpasses mere compatibility and good conversation.
Furthermore, I believe love is acknowledging the brokenness dwelling within us that makes up our humanity. It is embracing these broken pieces regardless of how many times we are cut. Family, friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives – we love ourselves sick with these ideas. But rarely do we love these people. (Thanks, Chu)
I believe love had never been about feeling incomplete and the rush to suffice it. It has constantly been about fullness – giving, embracing, suffering, and living all you have for another. Once we begin to comprehend this, only then will we be able to experience the fullness of love and life; for love is more infectious than any moral disease that plagues the earth – once we are filled to the brim, we cannot help but overflow.
“Woe is she who is captured but not yet pursued. She will constantly question herself and will never truly understand or know her worth in his eyes. He cannot act towards another woman without her suspicion, for she knows not the difference behind the intentions of his menial acts for her and those performed for other women; she has yet to know the exclusivity of his love.
Woe is he who captures without pursuing. We have seen, in man’s most shameful moments, that it is in his nature to win and to win-over; to have and to please. Everything in him will challenge him to do so. He has now opened himself to the temptation of conquering such challenges elsewhere, with the possibility of it involving another woman. Until then, he will feel undone and incomplete. ”
There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.
These are difficult days for Catholics in North Carolina – at least for some of us. The Catholic Church has drawn much attention lately through myriad issues that keep erupting in the news, including debates over who can marry and who should have to pay for contraception, as well as investigations of errant Catholic sisters and Girl Scouts and, locally, a multi-million dollar cathedral project. For many of us Catholics, the image of our church projected by these causes is hardly something that makes us proud. Instead, we perceive a mounting obsession with issues of sex, sexuality and image.
The church leadership’s current endeavors mostly come at the expense of the poor and marginalized in our society. Consider Raleigh Bishop Michael Burbidge’s recent crusade against same-sex marriage – it’s hard to imagine Jesus leading the charge for legal restrictions against those considered socially outcast (and having the equivalent of $100,000 to contribute to the cause). Jesus himself hung on the margins with society’s rejects and walked with them as equals. He warned the religious elites that tax collectors and prostitutes (the outcast “sinners” of his day) were entering his kingdom ahead of them.
And the bishop’s newly launched cathedral project will divert millions – possibly as much as $90 million – of dollars away from the needs of the poor in our communities to erect a campus that can only seem extravagant in these times of economic precarity. (Even the poorest parishes are expected to contribute the money for this, with promises that they will receive a small percentage for local building needs.)
We can’t help but notice that our leadership cries “religious freedom” when discussing health care, while at the same time seeming to oppose the religious freedom of churches that believe that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexuals.
Yet one of the best kept secrets in the Catholic Church is that, like the general public, we Catholics can choose whether to follow our leadership on these issues. The church’s own teaching, bound in the Catechism, states that we are “obliged to follow faithfully what [we] know to be just and right…. A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his [or her] conscience.” Vatican II, the U.S. bishops, and Pope John Paul II, among others, have echoed this “primacy of conscience.”
Catholics are big on tradition, which is why the hierarchy can justify supporting things like marriage amendments and building very expensive cathedrals, things that I’m sure Jesus himself would have had nothing to do with. But such a tradition deviates from one more fundamentally committed to those topics that Jesus dealt with repeatedly, such as loving our enemies and giving to the poor.
This deeper tradition informs the consciousness of many of us Catholics struggling to live in today’s world (and in today’s church). This tradition includes people like Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who decades ago began a lasting movement of lay people living in solidarity with the poor, practicing the works of mercy (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, etc.), and challenging injustice (including within the church).
This same tradition embraces the work of tens of thousands Catholic sisters across the country laboring every day alongside disadvantaged people on issues of social justice. And this tradition celebrates Oscar Romero, martyred archbishop of San Salvador, who as Fr. John Dear once noted, opened the seminary in downtown San Salvador to the homeless and halted construction of the cathedral there until, according to Romero, the hungry are fed, war ended and all children educated.
Even as the targeted Catholic sisters consider their next steps, we lay Catholics prayerfully examine our own consciences and thoughtfully ponder our response to the issues arising in the media, drawing on this rich tradition as the foundation of our faith. We are painfully aware that this struggle with leadership is older than the church itself – Jesus was constantly in conflict with the religious hierarchy of his day.
Those of us frustrated by current trends can’t easily communicate through our church bulletins or mass mailings, like our bishop. Nor can we easily elicit the attention of a press that lends credibility to the highly questionable assumption that the “church” is the leadership (or an expensive building) and not we the members.
But the news does not tell the whole story. We who conscientiously dissent from our church hierarchy are another one of the church’s best kept secrets. And we live, worship and work hard for justice in our communities, as much a part of the church as the leadership itself.
“Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity… Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom… love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… true love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does’.”—M. Scott Peck
“He Who is the beginning and the end, the ruler of the angels, made Himself obedient to human creatures. The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant.”—St. Anthony of Padua