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Sanctification in Daily Work
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Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Happy St. Valentine’s Day. I was able to attend Mass today at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL. My wife, Cindy, and I are traveling once again for work. She’s attending a client event today, then we head to Louisville, KY for the National Farm Machinery Show. We’ll probably get to have a romantic dinner in the St. Louis airport this afternoon. Doesn’t that sound exciting? But we don’t mind because it’s being with each other that’s important. It’s our 36th St. Valentine’s Day together too.

I love the stories about St. Valentine and the origins of this day. My favorite is one that our Pastor told during Mass yesterday morning back home. Here it is from the History Channel website:

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Be Instruments of Peace

As Catholics we are called to love and respect all human life, including those who do not love us in return, and even those who wish us harm. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us,

““To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…love your enemies and do good to them…Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful…Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk. 6:27-28, 35, 36, 38)

Today’s anniversary gives us the opportunity to put this teaching into practice. Those who attacked us seven years ago did so out of extreme hatred and hate can only be defeated by love. As we remember this bloody day in human history may we learn to love and forgive our enemies, especially those who wound us so deeply and not let hatred enter our hearts no matter how grieved we may be. May our enemies turn from their evil ways. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    null

In this time of hatred, violence and war, let us strive to be instruments of peace and love for all human beings.

    Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
    where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury, pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master,
    grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood, as to understand;
    to be loved, as to love;
    for it is in giving that we receive,
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

    Amen.

From today’s evening prayer (plus a few lines):

“Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. For: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it” (1 Peter 3:8-11)

Previous post:
Loving Our Enemies

The Paradox of the Cross

In today’s culture it is considered loving for families to end the lives of their loved ones instead of allowing them to suffer and thus to suffer with them. We kill the unborn instead of giving birth to a disabled child, we starve and dehydrate the severely handicapped who are unable to communicate with us, and we hasten the death of the elderly and the terminally ill. All to avoid or eradicate suffering. But is this true love?

nullMother Teresa once said that true love means to “give until it hurts.” This is the true meaning of “consolation”. In his encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict explains that the Latin word con-solatio, consolation, “suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude” (para, 38). True love means sacrifice – sacrifice which requires the renunciation of self in such a way that we not only love the one who suffers, but we actually take on another’s suffering as our very own.

Love simply cannot exist without this painful renunciation of myself, for otherwise it becomes pure selfishness and thereby ceases to be love. (38)

To become a person who truly loves is to suffer with the other and for others out of love. There is another quote from Mother Teresa that goes:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

nullThis is the paradox of the Cross which we celebrate today. Love grows through suffering. Mother Teresa surely lived this out in her work with the poorest of the poor, no doubt using for herself the model of Christ’s Passion and death which is the model of true love and consolation. As Pope Benedict writes:

God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’s Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises (39)

The Cross is for Christ a burden of love for all humankind. We are called to this same love as Christ has said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). There is “no greater love” than to lay down one’s life for another and, I would say, to “suffer with” the other. By taking up our own crosses and those of our suffering brothers and sisters, uniting them with the Cross of our Salvation, not only will all truly be consoled, but also our love, and our capacity to love more, will grow as a result.

If we ever want to see the image of true love, we have only to gaze upon the Cross.

Our First Love

sacred-heart.jpgAs the world celebrates romance and love today I thought I would say a few words about true love. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1Corinth 13:13). So what is love? Or more accurately who is love? St. John answers this question telling us that, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected within us” (1 Jn. 4:16-17) In his encyclical, God is Love, Pope Benedict says that this is where our definition of love must begin. We love because God, who is love, first loved us. That is why he created us. But his love did not end with our creation. After the fall of man, God not only freed his chosen people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, but he freed all of mankind from the slavery of sin by sending his only Son to be our redeemer (John 3:16) and calling us to the heavenly Marriage Feast which is “union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood.” The best way to grow in love for another person is to grow in love for God. Then we can truly learn how to love as God loves.

A Valentine’s Day suggestion for couples: spend time in prayer together.

Advice from St. John Chrysostom: young husbands should say to their wives: “I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us… I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.” (CCC 2365)

Love and Be Loved

null“This is the great mystery of our faith. We do not choose God, God chooses us. From all eternity we are hidden ‘in the shadow of God’s hand’ and ‘engraved in his palm.’ Before any human being touches us, God ‘forms us in secret’ and ‘textures us ‘ in the depth of the earth, and before any human being decides about us, God ‘knits us together in our mother’s womb.’ God loves us before any human person can show love to us. He loves us with a ‘first’ love, an unconditional love, wants us to be his beloved children, and tells us to become as loving as himself…

God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by Him?’ The question is not ‘How am I to know God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be known by him?’ And finally, the question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by Him?'”

This is an excerpt from The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. I thought it was appropriate for the beginning on Lent and wanted to share it with you all. The greatest challenge of the spiritual life is not to love God, but to allow ourselves to be loved by Him. Not to ask for forgiveness, but to let go of our sins and allow ourselves to be forgiven. This Lent, through fasting and prayer we reflect on the emptiness of our lives without God. Let us also reflect on His great mercy and forgiveness and his desire to love us lavishly.

I have been seriously neglecting Path to Holiness lately. I’ve been torturing myself with politics and trying to keep up writing on Reflections. I hope to spend more time on both blogs and less time obsessing over politics. God bless you all this Lenten season!

Chesterton on Friends and Enemies

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
– GK Chesterton

Love Begets Love

See my latest blog entry at Reflections of a Paralytic: Love the Suffering.