A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘love

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. . . .Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7*

We find ourselves in the middle of wedding season, with many couples choosing May and June to get married. Often this chapter of Corinthians is read at weddings, including mine in 1996.

These aren’t simply beautiful words about love. When we apply them to marriage, we can see that we need to be patient and kind with our spouse, happy for and not jealous of our spouse’s success, willing to compromise, unwilling to hold grudges, and prepared to hang in there during the rough times and not only the smooth ones.

Doug and Linda engaged013240756_10206434256681945_1275776754904074119_nMy in-laws have been married for 46 years and my parents, for almost 48. No marriage lasts that long if one spouse always has to be right, have his or her own way, or gives up when things are difficult. No marriage lasts that long if husband and wife let job stress, family conflicts, illness, financial problems, or an inability to forgive drive a wedge between them.

Today couples are too quick to let their relationship slide—slowly or quickly—into separation and even divorce when they hit a bump in the road. But think about these words of Jesus from Mark 10:7-9:

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Pulling apart a marriage isn’t supposed to be easy because our lives are meant to become one on our wedding day.

If we know a couple who has been married a long time, we should ask them their secret. It won’t be selfishness or resentment or barely veiled contempt; we’ll probably hear that it’s commitment to loving each other and to staying together, hard work, love, and selfless giving.

I pray that, whether we’re engaged, newly wed or married for a long time, we would give more thought to these passages and renew our commitment to our partner in thought, word and deed.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

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heartI heard someone say today that she didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because she could give her husband a card or chocolates or make him a special dinner any night of the week.

We could do those things anytime—but do we?

Isn’t it more likely that we’re too stressed out and tired from work or classes, child-rearing and chores to make the effort—let alone feel like making the effort—to let our spouse know that we love him or her so much more than we did on the day we got married? That we appreciate the ways our husband or wife cares for us? That we still find him or her attractive? Isn’t it more likely that we expect our spouse to make the effort to show and tell us how wonderful we are?

If both sides are waiting and neither makes a move, we have a time-tested recipe for the blues on Valentine’s Day. So why not take a little time to show that we still love and cherish our spouse, as we promised on our wedding day?

While ads would have us believe that the way to prove our love is to buy our loved one an expensive gift, the reality is that there are better ways to show our love on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.

Every day for the ten days up to and including Valentine’s Day, I’ve been writing my husband a note that says two things I love about him, and every day I leave it in a different place. He can’t help but feel special when I take the time not only to say that I love him but also to share some things I love about him.

Here are a few other great ways to show we care:

  • Start and end each day with a kiss and an “I love you.”
  • If our spouse gives us gifts, show they’re appreciated by using them: wear the necklace, listen to the CD, or use the gift card.
  • Wear our wedding ring, and get it resized if it’s too small or too big.
  • Hold hands—in public!
  • Have pictures taken together (since one spouse is usually behind the camera) and frame some.
  • Plan regular dates, whether they’re for a favourite activity or something new.
  • Say positive things about our spouse to other people.
  • Make a card or a special dinner for Valentine’s Day. Why should our anniversary be the only day we celebrate our love?

If we truly appreciate the gift God has given us, we should make sure that our spouse feels loved on Valentine’s Day and all year long.

The school of Christ is the school of love. In the last day, when the general examination takes place…love will be the whole syllabus.

~ St. Robert Bellarmine, quoted in “Celebrate September 2015,” Catholic Digest, September 2015

Some say that love is a feeling and others, that it’s a decision. A case can be made for both points of view.

We love our parents, spouse, children, and other relatives and our close friends almost without thinking about it—we just know that we love them. If asked why, we could probably list some good reasons.

But when our family or friends prove to be only human, hurting us through their words or actions, love may become a choice.

In our society, so much seems disposable—plates and cutlery, cameras, cell phones, and even relationships. It’s easier to cut ties than to make an effort to find out why others acted as they did and to work at forgiving them and moving forward. It’s easier to forget that we, too, are only human and make mistakes we’d want others to forgive.

Think about these words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7*:

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.

Before we decide to end a friendship, distance ourselves from relatives, or close the book on a marriage, we could ask ourselves whether we’ve lived up to this standard. Have we always been patient and kind? Have we been irritable or resentful? Have we tried to make amends for our mistakes or reconcile with others, or have we decided the effort or possible pain wasn’t worth it?

Young children form and end friendships easily and often, but as adults, we can model for our children and youth just what forgiveness and love could look like.

When we think about loving our neighbour as ourselves, we may think about giving to charities that help strangers here and abroad. Maybe it’s time that, when we think of our neighbour, we think about the cousin we stopped talking to; the friend we might unfriend on Facebook; or the sibling, parent or spouse whose actions left us hurt—and remember that we’re called to “Make love [our] aim” (1 Corinthians 14:1). We can choose to forgive and to love.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Valentine

A Valentine’s Day decoration I made for my husband a few years ago

With Valentine’s Day squarely in the middle of the month, it seems February is the time to celebrate love. But what does that look like?

Does it mean showering loved ones with sweet treats, sentimental cards and extra affection? Sure. Who doesn’t appreciate—well, being appreciated? Especially if the sweet treats and cards are homemade with love, and we write something inside the cards rather than just sign them.

It could also mean carving out special time just to be with our spouse, even with no plans to go out. (I recommend Sheila Wray Gregoire’s post “Make Valentine’s Day Celebrate Your Marriage Day!”) Or even tackling a chore on our spouse’s honey-do list. (If that seems strange, I recommend reading Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.)

But here’s some further food for thought from St. Augustine of Hippo, as quoted in the January/February issue of Catholic Digest:

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

And so here are a few other ways to show what love looks like this month:

  • Volunteer to walk dogs at the Ottawa Humane Society or provide a forever home for a new furry friend at this or another area shelter.
  • Bring some valentines to veterans in long-term care centres, seniors in retirement residences, or children in the hospital.
  • Call, e-mail or visit a friend or neighbour who will be going through the first Valentine’s Day after the death of a spouse.
  • Start your spring cleaning early—look for gently used spring clothing and household items to donate to charity.

I pray that God would open our eyes to see where the needs are in our community and beyond and that he would open our hearts to respond in love.

Perfection of life is the perfection of love. For love is the life of the soul.

~ St. Francis de Sales, quoted in “Celebrate February 2014,” Catholic Digest, January/February 2014

At some point, we might find it hard to love someone. A spouse who puts work or hobbies ahead of family time. A teen who skips classes, smokes, drinks or does drugs. An ageing parent who needs care but who wasn’t the caring parent we needed growing up.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, other people will find us hard to love at some point because of our words or actions. And that’s when we most need them to love us.

As our priest pointed out in his homily yesterday, the prophet Jeremiah lived at a difficult time. The people of Judah were under siege from the Babylonians because they were disobeying God. Although the people reacted badly—imprisoning him and going so far as to throw him into a cistern (see Jeremiah 38:4-13)— Jeremiah kept warning God’s people of the consequences if they did not repent because he continued to love the people. Even when it was hard.

And as James reminds us in Hebrews 12:3*, “Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” People rejected Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-29); so did the scribes and Pharisees (see Luke 6:6-11). The priests, scribes and elders questioned his authority (see Luke 20:1-8). And the chief priests and scribes conspired to put Jesus to death (see Luke 22:1-6). But Jesus endured all this rejection and even suffered death on a cross because he loves us, despite the fact that we’re all sinners:

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11)

If we’re truly followers of Jesus, then we also need to love others, even when it’s hard. Even when our patience runs out, our feelings are hurt, or our trust is broken. We can call on God to guide us in showing that love—by having a heart-to-heart talk or even going to marriage counselling with our spouse, visiting with and providing care packages for our parent, or finding a counsellor for our teenaged child, for example—and to strengthen us in our choice to continue to love.

Someday, someone will have to choose to continue loving us. Even when it’s hard.

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Saint Joseph . . . You presided over the events of [Jesus’] infancy, and your labors provided food and shelter for the Creator of the universe. You offered him and Mary love and unselfish devotion. . . . [T]he Church, with good reason, cries out, “Go to Joseph!”

– From “Prayer to Saint Joseph: Patron of Workers” in the Holy Family Prayer Book

When my son was a toddler, one of his many loud toys with push buttons featured these two sayings: “Daddy loves you” and “Let’s sing with Mommy.”

True, kids need to hear that their father loves them, but they also need to see that he does. And they need their father to model for them what a good father and husband looks like.

Here are some of the things my father modelled for my brother and me:

Dad and MinPins

My dad and two friends

The value of education. My father was the first in his family to attend university. He encouraged us to work hard in school, made me take classes in math and sciences when I no longer had to in high school so I’d “keep my options open,” and help put us through university.

The value of hard work. Now retired, Dad worked hard at his job but tried not to bring the stresses of the job home with him. Dad fixes things around the house when he can and calls repairmen when he can’t. He raises some livestock; grows a lot of fruit, vegetables, flowers and houseplants; and shares what he grows with us.

Patience. Dad worked with me until I could say “She sells seashells by the seashore” so I wouldn’t have a lisp when I started school. He explained geometry concepts to me over and over until I understood. And he started teaching me how to drive when I turned 16, although the first lesson just involved checking around the car, adjusting the seat and mirrors, and going to the bottom of the driveway and back up.

The importance of family. My parents used to have my mother’s much younger brother for a long visit each summer, even though he really tried Dad’s patience (faking asthma attacks, somehow cutting the lawnmower cord a foot from the plug, etc.). Dad checked in on his father several times a week, even though he was difficult to deal with. He regularly drove us to visit my mom’s mother, and he helped clean out her house so she could sell it. He calls his brothers on their birthdays and checks up on them when they’re ill.

Love. Dad is kind of reserved, but when I was a little girl, he’d tickle me until I couldn’t breathe and let us hang on his legs while he tried to walk down the hall. He got choked up when I sang at my uncle’s wedding and when he first met my son. And my dad usually finds a gift to hide on the Christmas tree for my mother, which he’s been doing for…oh, a few decades.

I am very thankful for my father and his example.

This Father’s Day, may we give thanks for and honour the fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, and other father figures who show their children how to be a loving husband and father and follower of Jesus.

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13*)

Think, for just a moment, about something that you dread but can’t avoid—like a speech, an exam, an interview, a journey, an operation—and that will lead to something better. Does it give you butterflies in the stomach, clammy hands, sleepless nights?

Whatever it is and however you feel can’t begin to compare with what Jesus faced in the days before his death on the cross. As the Gospels tell us, he was welcomed and hailed by the crowds one day but would suffer much in the days that followed:

  • Judas would betray him.
  • His followers would abandon him.
  • Peter would deny him.
  • Pilate would order his crucifixion.
  • Soldiers would mock and scourge him, force him to carry his cross through the streets, and crucify him next to criminals.
  • While he hung on the cross, the priests, scribes, elders and passersby would mock him.
  • He would suffer, die, and be buried in someone else’s tomb.

Luke 22:42-44 tells us that Jesus prayed as his suffering was about to begin:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.

Then he faced all this for our sake, knowing that his suffering would save us and that he would soon be returning to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I had learned all this as a child, but it really sank in when I watched The Passion of the Christ. While certain parts of this film have been criticized, the movie makes it very clear just how much Jesus suffered for our sake.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned every one to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

This week, I hope that you will have some time to spend in prayer to think about Jesus’ love and sacrifice. If your prayer time is limited, maybe you could listen to some praise songs in the car or while you do chores. Here are a few songs for the week from my own CDs:

I also hope that you would have the chance to participate in other Holy Week services along with the Easter (or Easter Vigil) service and pray that you would be filled with joy at knowing Jesus came to save you.

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

Now that the Church has selected a new pope, media attention has turned to the public’s opinion on the choice of Pope Francis and on what his priorities should be.

I’ve read a number of articles stating that many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, would like to see the Church allow female priests, end celibacy for priests, expand the role of the laity, and so on. In short, they’d like to “modernize” the Church.

I think these articles miss an important point: as Christians, we’re not called to adapt to the ways of the world but to transform ourselves according to God’s will, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2*:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To learn God’s will for our lives, we need to spend time talking and, even more importantly, listening to God in times of prayer, following the example Jesus gave us during his earthly ministry. We also need to spend time reading God’s word to learn what he expects of us. In Micah 6:8, we are told this:

He has showed you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

In the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), Jesus tells us about God’s will on such topics as charitable giving, prayer, and forgiveness. And in Mark 12:29-31, he tells us what the most important commandments are:

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Scripture tells us that we need to transform our lives by loving God, by acting in more loving ways toward our family members and our neighbours (in the broadest sense of the word), by giving to those in need at home and abroad, by modelling true forgiveness, and by working for social justice. These are areas where our society is often sadly lacking.

And if we do these things, the Church can teach “modern” society so much through the way we its members live.

*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition

Valentine

A Valentine’s Day decoration I made for my husband a few years ago

“Be Mine.” The message in Valentine’s Day greeting cards is usually some variation on this theme. However short but sweet or long and flowery it may be, though, the sentiment is never a book-length message about the sender’s love.

Then there’s the Bible. It is a whole book—or rather, a collection of books—about God’s love for us. But God doesn’t ask us to be his; he tells us in Isaiah 43:1* that we already are:

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Not only does God reassure us that we belong to him, he also affirms in Jeremiah 31:3* that he will always love us:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;

therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

If we ever have any doubt that God loves us, as imperfect as we are, his own words and actions should clear that doubt away. The question is whether we then show that love to others, as Jesus told us to in John 13:34-35*: Read the rest of this entry »


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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