#Lovewins

Love.  It's a four letter word that appears quite a bit in our daily vocabulary, and frankly, in close to every other post on this blog.  Love plays a pretty large part in our lives. Yet what is love?  The world seems to have been asking that question a lot longer than Haddaway penned the words in 1993.

Real sex, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work. It's not easy. But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."


Let's start off by what love isn't, especially in the light of the Supreme Court decision this past week.

Love isn't use.

We're called to love people and use things, but very often in today's world we see others doing the opposite, and sometimes are guilty of it ourselves.  Steve Gershom, a Catholic who struggles with same sex-attraction, wrote this on the subject on his blog.

"Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother. If my son or daughter wanted to eat sand I'd tell them: that's not what eating is for; it won't nourish you; it will hurt you. Maybe my daughter has some kind of condition that makes her like sand better than food, but I still wouldn't let her eat it. Actually, if she was young or stubborn enough, I might not be able to reason with her -- I might just have to make a rule against eating sand. Even if she thought I was mean.
So the Church doesn't oppose gay marriage because it's wrong; she opposes it because it's impossible, just as impossible as living on sand. The Church believes, and I believe, in a universe that means something, and in a God who made the universe -- made men and women, designed sex and marriage from the ground up. In that universe, gay marriage doesn't make sense. It doesn't fit with the rest of the picture, and we're not about to throw out the rest of the picture." 


It's about not using others for pleasure.  It's about not using ourselves, or letting ourselves be used.  And that saying 'no' to the culture of use (as pointed out BEAUTIFULLY in Laudato Si, Pope Francis's newest writing) applies to all people, who are all called to love.

Love isn't a trend or a passing emotion 

We toss around the word 'love' quite a bit in our daily vocabulary.  I love T-Swift's 1989 album.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love German Shepherds.  But this is love-as-a-passion, which can be pretty darn emotional most times.  It passes.  Next year at this time, T-Swift may not be my favorite.  I may get an inkling for Rocky Road ice cream.  And a chocolate lab may steal my heart.

But a virtuous and giving love doesn't pass.  It bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things.  And a good romance has a mix of both.  But it isn't solely one or the other.  Love as an emotion or as a feeling can't be used to define love.  Then you will constantly be in search for the next place to find your warm-'n-fuzzy fix.  Love is a decision, that sometimes has to be made on a day-by-day (heck, sometimes on a minute-by-minute) process.

Love isn't sex. 

This is perhaps the hardest to swallow, especially because it is the lie that is most promulgated by society today.  "If you really love me..." implies not how much one person is reflecting the light of Christ in the relationship, but if they are ready to take their relationship to the next level.  We live in a world where love = sex and there is no difference.  Adam Levine sings "Your sugar, yes please, won't you come and lay it down on me?"  Sam Hunt wants to just take our time and Taylor Swift says that boys "only want love if it's torture."  Um...what?  That's not love.  That's an idolization of sex and an application of it towards the concept of feeling wanted.

According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people are called to chastity.  Not 'people who are attracted to the opposite gender are called to chastity" or "people who are attracted to the same gender are called to chastity," but "PEOPLE are called to chastity."

"All Christ's faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his effective life in chastity."  (CCC 2348).  Our very Baptism urges us on in this quest against the cycle of use, and the reducing of the beauty of authentic, Christ-inspired love, simply down to the singular issue of physical sexuality. 

So what is love?

Love is sacrifice

Mother Teresa one said, "Love to be real, it must cost - it must hurt - it must empty us of self." True love looks like a God coming down to earth, pouring himself into a human form and loving us despite knowing that He would hang on the cross because of the weight of our sin.  True love is stripped naked, hands splayed out on wooden beams, awaiting the piercing agony of nails being driven into his wrists.  True love?  True love is sacrifice.

"There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice"
--Pope John Paul II


Love is hard work.

Love is willing the good of the other as other and wanting to see them in Heaven and spend eternity praising God together.  And being that selfless goes against every fiber of our being.  Instead of wanting what is good for us and what makes us feel or look good, we have to put ourselves third, with first place going to God and second place going to others.

And because love wills the good of the other as other, it wills the good of both the body and the soul.  It realizes that true love, authentic love, can't be engaging in the physical engagement of homosexual relationships.  It wants the good of the other's eternal destination...and doesn't want that person in any place but Heaven.  That's true love.

#Lovewins.  

Yes, dear hashtag...it does.  But not in the way you think...or the way that today's culture says it does.  No, #Lovewins because of this reason: "Love never fails.  Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled.  There this knowledge, it will pass....and now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13).

Love wins because love doesn't end.  True love is what Heaven is going to be - true love is the very essence of a God who has no beginning and will have no end.  True love is beautiful and amazing and something that every human being is called to take part in through Christ.

Love is the answer.  God is the answer.


Appreciating Women

In the late 1960s, the feminist movement burst onto the cultural scene in America, and in it's wake has left an American culture that is thirsting for true femininity and the ever elusive answers concerning the interaction between men and women.

The world defines feminism as equality.  Men and women should be treated the same, and men and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.

What does a Catholic have to say on this issue?

I believe in the distinct equality of the human person - but I also greatly value the beauty in the differences between men and women and how God created two genders...not one.

I'm a Aquinas-loving, theology-reading, baseball loving woman with a pixie cut.  I love a good maxi skirt, a strong espresso, and the desire to totally loose myself in love of others.  And I believe that radical feminism has destroyed femininity.  

I'm tired of a radical feminism that says that my desires to get married and have a family are old fashioned and I'm giving up on what should be my 'real dreams' if I pursue something so archaic. I'm tired of an angry feminism that says it's my body and I can do with it whatever I want.  I'm sick of the radical feminism that says woman should just be clones of men and there is no difference between the two.

I value womanhood and femininity as a whole because the world needs femininity and, frankly, the world needs the beauty and uniqueness of women.  For too long, today's culture has squished what is feminine down into the outskirts of society, all with the battle cry that women are equal, and men and women are the same. And if womanhood is talked about, it's reduced to narcissistic messages about how woman can look...which is more objectifying than empowering.

In his letter to women in 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote, "Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world's understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic." 

A valuing of women and Catholicism aren't two things that are at odds with each other. In fact, it is in the Catholic Church that I am the most valued, respected, and honored as a woman.  The love and honor showed to our Blessed Mother radiates the appreciation of the beauty of a woman's role in salvation history.  Saint Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) wrote, "The feminine sex is ennobled by the virtue of the Savior's being born of a human mother; a woman was the gateway through which God found entrance to humankind." Whoa. Re-read that line if you have to : it was a woman who acted as the very portal for Christ to enter the world and take on human nature.  If that honor isn't something that values a woman, I don't know what is.

Being a woman doesn't mean that I'm weak, or insignificant, or less-than-a-person. It actually means that I'm strong, beautifully valued, and a whole person who finds my value and significance in Christ.

Being a woman isn't about what you wear, what service projects you have on your resume, whether you are married, or devoted to the religious life.  It isn't about how long your hair is, whether you wear high heels, what religious orders' charism appeals to you, or who your favorite spiritual author is.  Being a female, desiring to uphold the dignity of women as human beings, and possessing a sense of femininity is something completely different.

"It's about what inspires our deepest passion, and who reigns in our hearts." Colleen Carroll Campbell says in her talk, "The Feminine Genius."

We live in a world that hungers so deeply for saints to rise up, and whose brokenness yearns for the touch a spiritual materialism.  But the culture's answer to this problem is to create a uni-gender mentality that blurs the lines between roles of men and women, and disdains any difference between what is male and what is female.

Femininity is not a burden or a set back.  Instead, it is a beautiful gift that allows one to be so receptive to Christ's love for oneself and for the world. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, "The level of any civilization is always its level of womanhood.  In as much as woman is loved, it follows that the nobler a woman is, the nobler a man will have to be to be deserving of that love.  That is why the level of any civilization of its womanhood."

The feminine genius that JPII called women to is a great call - a call to love.  A call to embrace the fact that woman are called to help create a culture and world that is open to life.

If we take what JPII and the Church says about women, Colleen Campbell says, "We realize that our fulfillment lies not in tearing men down, or, in imitating boys behaving badly.  It lies in becoming more fully what God created us to be: human beings who bear His image to the world in a distinctively feminine way."

Viva La Difference....Viva La Feminine.