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Monday, February 27, 2017

The Measure of Love...

The Gentleman Saint...
"The measure of love is to love without measure." 

 -- St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622),  17th Century Bishop of Geneva, and Doctor of the Church, who as a priest was known for his patience and gentle approach to quell religious division after the Protestant Reformation.  He was a lawyer by trade and, after convincing his father to allow him to enter the priesthood, he was just as successful in sharing the Catholic faith and converting Calvinists in Geneva.  He would preach to them and hand out pamphlets that he would write himself.  St. Francis is said to have returned tens of thousands back into the Catholic fold.  The "brilliant apologist," as some have described, was known for practicing his axiom, "A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar."  Well recognized for his book, Introduction to the Devout Life, which is hailed by Catholics and many Prostestants alike, he also wrote, A Treatise on the Love of God, and hundreds of pamphlets, which were later assembled as, The Catholic Controversy, and letters addressed to the laity.  Along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded the women's Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary.  He was canonized in 1665 by Pope Pius IX 43 years after his death.  His feast day is celebrated by the Church on January 24th...   

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marriage, Love and Shattered Glass...

"At least you didn't break the wine bottles," my wife said in an irritated tone.

"Well, I guess, I did something right," I answered coyly, after shattering a glass punch bowl with the seat of our car when I slid it back to get behind the wheel.  The four bottles of wine next to it were not touched!

"No," she shot back, "You just didn't do more wrong!"

I love my wife.  She's very pragmatic and, as you can see, isn't afraid to tell me how she feels. Whether I want to hear it or not!

In this case, it was probably not an apropos way to begin a marriage retreat that we were leading but such is the reality of married life.  You take the good with the bad, although, for the most part, at least among the couples we are friends with, the good far outweighs the bad.

The great English writer and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton put it into perspective when he wrote, "Marriage is an adventure, like going to war."

I'm sure he meant its complexities; sometimes you're head over heels in love.  Sometimes you're at each other's throats.  Other times, you're side-by-side in the trenches fighting enemies from abroad, like your children!  While, occasionally, there's a little bit of both.  And, when you get two people with strong characters, like my wife and me together, you never know.

Nobody says marriage is easy (at least nobody who has ever been married!), but it's the most rewarding gift that God gave man and woman; a chance to participate in His creation and love through bonds of family.

A young couple from our parish recently lost twin babies at birth.  Certainly, there's nothing more difficult for a parent to have to endure than the loss of a child, and these two were the couple's first children, which had been long awaited.

The infants just lived long enough for a priest to Baptize them after an emergency Cesarean Section. It was a surreal scene, according to those who witnessed it.  

Pain and anguish are difficult to get through but having faith and a loving spouse by your side makes it almost bearable.

In a recent social media post, the husband and father wrote, "There's a unique peace - and dare I say joy - from the certain knowledge that my children never knew evil; that sin, pain and suffering will always be foreign to them; that they will spend eternity in the company of angels and saints, with our Lord and Blessed Mother for best friends...."

That wisdom and certainty derives from faith.  A faith that can move mountains and is centered on love, which fosters hope.  And, hope, as Chesterton also wrote, "means hoping when everything seems hopeless."

I'm sure their spiritual foundation and reliance on each other, will help them overcome their grief and move towards their next adventure.

Then, there's our neighbors across the street.  A young couple who months before their first baby was born was hit with a Dwight "Doc" Gooden curve ball, a.k.a. Uncle Charlie, in life.

The husband went to ride his bike one morning and hours later, police showed up at the expectant mother's doorstep to tell her he had been involved in an accident and was in a coma.

He survived but, for the past eleven months, she has been dealing with a newborn baby daughter and a husband who, until a few weeks ago, was totally immobile.  How's that to start your married life?

The husband is now getting up and learning to walk again but they have a long road ahead.

It's easier to love when things are going smoothly but much more challenging when rough times come our way.  But, rough times are part of marriage and you can go with the culture and take the easy way out, saying "I didn't sign up for this," or you can tighten your belt strap and say, "bring it on."

Unfortunately, we live in a throwaway society, where people throw things away instead of trying to fix it.

Notwithstanding, marriage is not something you throw away because it's broken.  It wasn't made to be.  God said, "It is not good that man be alone," and so He made man a helper in life and, when a man leaves his father and mother, he clings to his wife and the two become one flesh and are bound spiritually forever.    

I've heard it said that there's a part of you in every intimate relationship you've ever had because the union of a man and woman was always meant to be eternal.

Moreover, as I often tell my children, love is not a feeling.  It's a choice; a commitment.  Feelings come and go. A commitment endures forever.

Man and woman are made to complement and complete each other. All you have to do is look at our bodies to see that reality.  However, in that complement and completion, we are also made very different; not just physically but in the way we think, the way we handle problems, the way we approach situation, and often those differences lead to strife.

But, strife is not insurmountable, as long as there is love, a.k.a. commitment, just as the young couple in our parish and our neighbors across the street apparently have.  And love, as St. Paul writes, "Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,."  including shattered glass...