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Catholic Mangate – Brent Stubbs via Ignitum Today

“There are men out there. There are. They realize that the fulfillment of their vocation of marriage terminates in you. Wait for that one. Some people think men should not “need” you, but that is wrong. Adam needed Eve. He was incomplete because his vocational calling was not yet realized. So too, the GCM called to marriage. Don’t settle for a boy, I agree, but also don’t settle for some dude who’s just “not that into you”.”

Bingo!

*note: in quote above: GCM = Good Catholic Man

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Scripture – On True Love

Quote

Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm;

For Love is strong as Death,

longing is fierce as Sheol.

Its arrows are arrows of fire,

flames of the divine.

Deep waters cannot quench love,

nor rivers sweep it away.

Were one to offer all the wealth of his house for love,

he would be utterly despised.

– Song of Songs 8:6-7

A Favorite Quote from C.S. Lewis

Quote

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Looking forward to reading this book because of this quote!

Alleluia! Love, Intimacy, and Easter – Part 5

For a recap of the entire series: See Part 1 here. See Part 2 here. See Part 3 here. See Part 4 here.

5. “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” – Fr. Pedro Arrupe S.J., former Superior General

I think what often gets left out of the search to love and be love is God who is Love itself, who is perfect unconditional love! In the first letter of St. John, he tells us that God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. The fact that we are able to love and be loved in the first place is derived from our Creator.

As a kid in Catholic school, I could never understand the story of Jesus being asked what the greatest commandment in all of the law is: He answers that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  The thing that always got me was that he was asked for one (implied in the singular use of “commandment”) but answered with two. Like, Jesus, I know you’re awesome and all, and I’mma let you finish…but do you wanna double-check that math? What I came to understand later, though, was that it really is one commandment! Love of God and love of neighbor cannot be separated: there’s two sides to this coin called love.

Loving God and hating your neighbor (especially the prickly ones!) is a contradiction. St. John tells us: “If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21) Pretty straight-forward right?

However, I think what’s less clear is that loving others well is very difficult without a love for God as well. In modern times, discussions of idolatry tend to circle around the “big three”: money, power, and sex, but I think we also put people ahead of God as idols as well, which is easily seen in the nature of celebrity in mainstream culture today. However, we can also make idols of the people that are closest to us, the people we love the most and whom we desire to be loved by the most! Think about it: when a family member, friend, or significant other does something to disappoint, hurt, or frustrate us, even unintentionally, we tend to feel more strongly about it than we would if say, an acquaintance or co-worker did the same thing. We feel this way because our loved ones are closer to us and more important to us, and that makes us more vulnerable. Even though we may know in our heads that they are imperfect, flawed, and yes, sinful just like everyone else (and us!), somehow we can still manage to be shocked when this comes out (and it will happen, trust). We expect perfect love from imperfect people!

Growing in a loving relationship with God gives us perspective in our relationships with our neighbors by re-aligning our expectations of love. God is perfect, unchanging, unconditional love, and if we allow God to love us perfectly, then we can have more patience to love and be loved by others in our human, imperfect ways. It’s easier to deal with people popping quills when you A) know that they have them, and B) expect they will sometimes use them. As the saying goes, if we let God be God, we can let people be human, meaning: we can stop expecting people to be perfect.

But why do we struggle to love God? One answer is that like in our human relationships, we’re afraid. We don’t trust that God loves us in that unconditional manner that we all want and need: we’re like our forebears, Adam and Eve, who ate that apple from the Tree of Knowledge, even though God told them they would die, because they were afraid that God was holding out on them. Or maybe we worry that we’ve done so much bad stuff in our lives, turned away from God so much, that we convince ourselves (or maybe, the devil convinces us?) that God couldn’t possibly love us anymore in the way he claims to love us. So despite the fact that God knows us perfectly, and wants the best for us, in our lack of faith and trust we try to separate ourselves from Him.

However, God is always with us, constantly revealing Himself to us, waiting for us to respond and accept his love and help, at any time, in any place, whether we go to Mass every week or haven’t stepped foot in church in years, whether or not we pray every day, whether we think we deserve it or not! As Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. writes in his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, God meets us where we’re at – so where we’re at is a place where we can meet God. I don’t need to learn how to pray better or more often before God will love me; I don’t need to do more community service or learn to not get angry on the freeway before God will love me (though in Southern CA, I think accomplishing the later may qualify you for sainthood!). Love, that is, God, is here, now, and reaching out to you: all you have to do is accept 🙂

And if you do, I can promise you out of personal experience, that finding God, falling in love in that absolute, final way, is to live life the way we were meant to live it 😀

Alleluia! Love, Intimacy, and Easter – Part 4

See Part 1 here. See Part 2 here. See Part 3 here.

4. “I want to live my whole life like that. I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first.” – John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

I’ve made my choice. I’m tired of only seeing the two options of fight or flight. Tired of diving for cover, tired of lashing out, all for the sake of “protecting” myself.

I also don’t want to settle for being the “nice guy”: someone polite and politically correct, someone who won’t assert or initiate, someone non-confrontational. Because this too, can be a mask: by being unwilling to initiate or confront, by trying to get along to go along, I think we can end up closing ourselves off from the intimacy and the love we’re seeking. Being “nice” is not enough.

I want to live a life of truly loving and being loved, of revealing my real self to others and encouraging others to reveal themselves to me, of living to become what God made me to be and helping others become who God made them to be. To do this, I know that I have to learn to love recklessly with abandon: to live the heroic, courageous, radical kind of love that initiates relationship without regard to the possibility that love may not be returned right away, or maybe even ever! This is absolutely terrifying, because I will get hurt by some people: human nature, compounded by sin, practically guarantees this!

I’m far from perfect, far from the saint I aim to be, far from the best version of myself that God wants me to be. I’m sinful, I’m selfish, I lose patience sometimes, I get angry sometimes, I do dumb things sometimes! I’ll hurt others, sometimes without realizing it, and sometimes on purpose. Sometimes the fears can become so overwhelming that I’ll lose heart and resort to popping my quills or running away. I will screw up, I will fail: I get it when St. Paul says to the Romans when he says that he does not do the good he wants, but the evil he does not want. I get it because I do this too! And even beyond all that, I’m naturally introverted and painfully shy…that’s a lot of hurdles to leap over!

But maybe…courage is contagious. Maybe by living courageously, with God’s help we can pull others from their tombs of loneliness and isolation. Maybe taking that risk can encourage others to do the same: by putting away those quills and asking to dance, others just might put theirs away and accept that dance. 🙂

So I think I’ll take Bl. Pope JP2’s advice, straight out of Scripture, one of the most common exhortations God has for his people: “Be not afraid!” Leave the life of the chicken, and soar as the eagle!

See Part 5 here.

Alleluia! Love, Intimacy, and Easter – Part 3

See Part 1 here. See Part 2 here.

3. “We all want to get close without getting hurt. We meet neighbors, talk with coworkers, go on dates, and join church groups. We try to stay away from particularly prickly people. But the problem is not just them. It’s us. I’m someone’s porcupine. And so are you.” – Brandon Vogt, Dance of the Porcupines

So yes, despite the fact that we were made to love and be loved, we’re really afraid of intimacy, of revealing ourselves to others, because we’re afraid that if people really knew us, they wouldn’t love us anymore. As Brandon Vogt reminds us in his article (linked above), this is also true for everyone we meet, which makes this “love and be loved” business even more challenging!

The tricky thing about fear is that it generally evokes one of two responses: fight, or flight. We either hide as has been discussed, or like porcupines we pop out our quills and try to sting someone away: we might do this with sarcasm, or arrogance, or contempt, or self-righteousness, or jealousy, or selfishness, or pointed, piercing words. Sometimes we label and dismiss the people we encounter in order to convince ourselves that knowing and being known by the individual, in other words, loving him/her, is not really worth our time. However, this aggressiveness, though its forms may be deeply ingrained in us and we can easily unsheathe them for battle, is really just another form of hiding. These forms are not a fundamental part of who we are but rather are an arsenal we build up in our weakness, our sinfulness, and fears.

But despite our deepest fear, that if we reveal ourselves we will no longer be loved, we desperately long for love: we still want to get close, but without getting hurt. We want this because this is who God made us to be, to love and be loved! So how do we deal with this conflict: the fear of rejection versus our created purpose of loving and being loved?

There are two choices: you can continue to hide, cut yourself off from others, and lose yourself in loneliness. Or you can chose to rise from the tomb, and as Mr. Vogt suggests, learn to pull your quills in, take off your mask, and ask if you may have this dance. Because it’s not just other people’s quills that are the problem: our quills are also the problem.

Yes, to pull our quills in is to possibly risk getting stung. But could you also just imagine how beautifully we could dance to God’s music? I think that this image is part of what the Resurrection promises us: living as an Easter people and learning to dance with each other in this life is a foretaste of the big dance of Heaven 🙂

See Part 4 here. See Part 5 here.