(written in 2006)
I recently went on a one-day retreat run by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The title for this event, which they usually run twice a year, is called “Catholic Men’s Day of Prayer”. This specific retreat had as its focus Fatherhood.
Fatherhood is a large topic but one of the topics we touched upon was the relationship with our spouses. It was during these conversations that many discussions were shared that opened my eyes to a widely known fact that is in most part ignored in our current society.
We currently live in a society that worships to an extreme individualism and materialism. It seems to be the focus of everyone to be independent, to have their own things etc. However, in a loving community this kind of attitude is actually hurtful and dangerous. It leads to anger, envy and greed. This selfish focus is not how we were created. Man is a social creature, and we need each other to survive and to create a healthy and happy environment for all.
When discussing these issues it became apparent, as usual, that our catholic faith stands in stark contrast to what is promoted by our society. In the early church Christians gave up all their material possessions to join the community. This, of course, is not required of us now but that is because we have a different world economy altogether. But what is required of us is that we love our neighbors as ourselves.
It sounds so nice: love your neighbor as yourself. However it is difficult as we will know. However what makes it even more difficult is our understanding of the word Love. The dictionary has it as follows: 1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b : an assurance of love <give her my love> This is the primary view of the understanding and use of the word in our society.
The problem lies in that our Lord asks us to do another kind of love. This love is an action word. It is something we do and not something we feel. It is a command as Christians that we are under strict orders to comply. We must love all as our neighbors. Not the soft weak mushy stuff that we are constantly sold but the tough hard love. The kind of love that tells a child no, cares for a sick person and bites its tongue not to say something hurtful. This world would be a much better place if all persons understood this.
One priest told a story that he was speaking to a man who said to him “Father, I don’t love my wife anymore” He looked at this man and said to him “Well, love your wife.” The man looked at him and was confused. He didn’t understand and simply put it is because he thought it was a feeling and not an act. There is one big prerequisite to be able to do this. We must die to ourselves. We must kill that selfish part of us and do what we are asked to do all the days of our lives. Look up to the greatest act of love ever done in the history of the world, our Lord giving his life for us on the cross. Then take up our cross.
If we can achieve this our lives will come together and bring us great joy. We will be able to put our wives and families first and our marriages will be happy and lifelong. We will put others always before ourselves and then the rewards will be great here, and they will be even greater in heaven.