Concrete Love!

We are not allowed to fail in loving. We are made to love. Every learning, experience, study should deepen our knowledge and will to love. We will be judged on love. So, as the church is looking for new ways to spiritually re-awaken the faithful who are drunk with the wine of secularism and indifference, it is only if we teach them how to love concretely that they will be sobered up. Who but St. Therese is better fitted for that task since it was she who brought to light the idea of doing small things with incredible amount of love. Therese of Lisieux is the saint of love. Although all the saints became saints as a result of love, it is Therese who emphasized for us how to practice love. What is her understanding of charity?

She believed Jesus’ command at the Last Supper — love one another as I have loved you— constitutes the Magna Carta of our faith. How we live this reveals our identity.[1] She noticed that Jesus did not love his disciples for their natural qualities; they were poor uneducated fishermen while he was eternal wisdom. He loved them because he wanted them to enjoy the kingdom. We too must become students in the school of love and master every aspect of it in our striving to become true disciples. Thus, she discovered a new insight about charity. “True charity consists in bearing with the defects of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues. Above all I know that charity must not remain shut up in the heart, for “No one lights a candle, and puts it in a hidden place”.”[2] That means we must be charitable not only to those who are dear to us, but also to all without distinction. Unlike the old law which commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, the new commandment given by Jesus urges us to love them as Jesus himself loves them i.e. more than ourselves.[3]img_0252

Marred by weaknesses and imperfections, unless Jesus loves in us, we cannot love others as Jesus loves us.[4] Thus grace becomes the epicenter of this commandment; grace empowers us to do what we would not otherwise be able to do on our own. So, frequent participation in the sacraments becomes crucial because they are the source of grace. As Aquinas shows, “the Sacraments are necessary for our salvation since it’s the only healing remedy against the disease of sin”.[5] Since we are living in the age of the new evangelization, if it is to be successful, practical love as developed by St. Therese and the celebration of the sacraments will have to go hand in hand.

Charity is concretized in how we approach every act. As she puts it, “it is not enough [to say we] love; we must prove it”.[6] That proof will happen under trials sometimes. The more united we are to Jesus the deeper we can love. So when we see defects in others, if we look at them with the eyes of love, we automatically see their virtues and good intentions.[7] She called that “small victories in the battlefield”. For example, in the convent where she lived, there was a sister who had the gift of displeasing Therese in her ways, words, and character. She could not stand her. She decides to practice charity toward her because “charity does not consist in feelings, but in works”;[8] she decided to do for that sister what she would do for the person she loved the most”.[9] So every time she meets her, she prays for her. When sister says something that was hurtful, instead of responding, Therese would smile most charmingly, or if she could, she’d change the conversation for as she sees it, “arguments don’t change hearts”.[10] If she could not resist the sister in her hurtful manner, she would run away like a coward to avoid sinning. She became victorious over that temptation through prayer, kindness, and virtuous cowardice. By preferring to see the sister as Jesus sees her, Therese knew she was pleasing Jesus for “just like an artist is pleased to receive praise for his work, the divine artist is pleased when we don’t stop at the exterior, but penetrate the inner sanctuary of his work where he dwells”.[11] Therese practiced that love so well, one day that sister asks Therese, “what attracts you so much toward me? Every time you look at me, you smile”. Success!

st-thereseCharity penetrates even the most hardened hearts; it heals even the most wounded; it soothes and frees the soul to focus on its natural inclination. Therese overcomes her temptations by mean of love. Charity changes mind and heart. It opens doors. She focused in growing in personal love, then that affects those around her drastically; love is irresistible; confronting the sister would create more friction and pain. Fraternal correction would only hurt her pride. How many today are wounded, broken, bruised, abused, and used because they don’t know how to love? Instead of detesting that sister, who gave her at first every chance to do so, she prefers to see Jesus hidden n the depths of her soul.[12] Would you like to change a bad coworker, neighbor, friend, unleash the power of love within you and participate in the sacraments very frequently, then wait to see marvel. How many people going to church regularly don’t know how best to live the truth? To be a Christian is the result of an encounter with the person of Jesus; that encounter should give a radical direction to our lives.

What am I talking about? Are there examples out there of that concrete love I am talking about? Maximilian Kolbe manifested that love at Auschwitz when he replaced father of three who was chosen to die. It is alive in St. Gianna Mollo’s daughter for whom she gave up her life. it is alive in those who strive to love the poor. we can touch in parents who sacrifice everything out of love for their family.

Lastly, charity is an interior disposition manifested externally. Performing many actions for others without interiorly disposed is not charity; in her words, “when charity has buried its roots deeply in the soul, it shows itself externally”.[13] So there can be charity in refusing to do for someone what cannot be done. It all depends of the disposition of the soul. Reform your soul. Convert.

This may sound obvious to many; that’s consoling; however there are many who don’t understand this fundamental calling of the Christian life, or how to live out their calling. A simple conversation with them reveals all this. That’s difficult to preach effectively morality, the cross, fasting, almsgivings, praying for one’s enemies, forgiveness etc. to people when they don’t get the basics. Unless they understand love is the basis of all these, unless they become love themselves, these will be a burden on them, and homilies will sound like blah blah blah.

The little way next be patient please

[1] Story of a soul, 219

[2] Story of a soul, 220

[3] Story of a soul, 220

[4] Story of a soul, 221

[5] ST III, 61, 1

[6] 225

[7] story of a soul, 221

[8] Story of a soul, 222

[9] ibid

[10] Story of a soul, 223

[11] Story of a soul, 222

[12] Story of a soul, 223

[13] story of a soul, 228

Love: The Cornerstone

Without a doubt, the foundation of the Christian life rests on love. All doctrines, all ecclesial laws, all spiritualties, all theologies aim at deepening the virtue of love. Without love, all efforts would miss the forest for the tree, or confound the stars for the sun, or prioritize means over end. Thats why love is always the unspoken attraction that brings two people together. St. Paul, powerful evangelizers that he was, understood the point of the Christian life profoundly. Thus, he wrote that even if we have all spiritual gifts and powers in the Christian community enabling us to occupy lofty position, if we don’t have love, it profits nothing. If we speak in tongues, they will cease; if we have knowledge, it will be done away. Love alone, the greatest of the spiritual gifts, will last (I Cor. 13:1-13). Love is the greatest equalizer in life.

imagesThis insight into the mystery of God encapsulates the call of every Christian. Love alone allows us to become godlike. From a Christian point of view, it is a noble task to be the mother Teresa of the poorest of the poor; it is praiseworthy to fight for justice like martin Luther king using nonviolence; it is ideal to convert a continent like the religious missionaries of the 16th to 18th centuries. However, unless charity constitutes the cornerstone of this endeavor, it does not leave an indelible mark in The Book of Life. All human inspiration must begin with charity and lead ultimately to greater charity. When she was seeking for her specific call (since she was already a Carmelite sister engaged to pray for priests) within the church, St. Therese of Lisieux discovered a pivotal and illuminating passage in the epistle of St. Paul that points her toward the epicenter of what it means to follow Christ.[1]

She went through a searching period. She felt that burning desire to do more in the church. It can be said that she was looking for her call within her call. At first, she wanted to be a warrior/martyr performing heroic deeds for Christ, guarding the pope, or going on crusade to defend the faith; she did not want just one type of martyrdom; she wanted to be flayed like St. Bartholomew, boiled in oil like St. John, tortured like St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, and guillotined like Joan of arc.[2] Then, she felt the vocation of the priest which would enable her to carry the living Christ in her hands and give him to thirsty souls; at the same time, she wanted the humility of St. Francis who did not feel worthy to receive the sublime dignity of the priesthood. As if the battle in her heart was not divisive enough, she felt the vocation of the apostles and the missionaries by which she would travel throughout the world to preach the glorious name of Christ.[3]

There are many who are reading this who felt like they are torn between many things in life or in the church. St. Therese can be a lamp within their feet. if you don’t know what God wants you to do with your life yet, you can never go wrong loving intensely. That’s enough to make you a saint, which is the goal of every life. As a faithful daughter of the church who wanted nothing but to do the will of God, she accepts that while they may be many spiritual gifts, not all can be doctors, martyrs, evangelists, priests etc. therefore, “I abase myself to the very depths of my nothingness, and raised myself so high I was able to reach myself”.[4] She then discovered something more excellent than all these wants. Without love, these desires don’t lead to God. In this discovery, her restless soul found solace.[5]

images-1Charity is the breadth, length, height, and depth of all vocations. The heart of the church burns with love, as she understands her. Love is the heart that pumps blood in the body of the church enabling her to function. It is love that makes the heart of the church beats. “If love ever becomes extinct, apostles would not preach the gospel, martyrs would refuse to shed their blood, and priests would become social workers. Love is everything because it encapsulates all vocation. In the midst of this discovery, she uproariously exclaimed “MY VOCATION IS LOVE; in the heart of the church, my mother, I shall be Love”.[6] Now, this discovery gives her the key to be the greatest in the church. The measure of her greatness will be the measure of her love. Let this be known, dear friends, what was true for St. Therese is true for all of us we are to be love. We will be as great as our love. As Aquinas famously puts it, “from love we came, by means of love, to become love, and to return to love”. No one but ourselves can stop us from becoming love and returning to love. We are each called to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. God is love, St. John the evangelist tells us. To be like him is to become enwrapped in love. Therefore, if you dream of the height, if you want to reach the mountaintop both in this life and the next, if you want to achieve something noble, worthwhile, if you want to shake the earth, unleash the power of love hidden within your heart. Genuine love is power.

How she lived her vocation to love marks the 20th century and continues to be unraveled in the 21st century. St. Pius IX did not hesitate as a result to dub her the greatest saint of the modern times. No small feats! St. John Paul II proclaimed a doctor of the church although she died at 24 and lived behind closed doors in her last 10 years on earth. The “Little Way” by which she lived her vocation to love is the most known and pursued spirituality right now. it is what inspired countless people to live holiness in an unprecedented way. That’s what inspired mother Teresa and her sisters to love the poorest of the poor so drastically.

I will explain the little way in the next post. Patience please!

[1] Story of a soul, 192

[2] Story of a soul, 193

[3] ibid 192

[4] ibid 194

[5] ibid 194

[6] ibid 194