"Big Four" Highlights


The Many ‘Shades’ of Christian Love

A Catholic primer for St. Valentine’s Day

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

You’ve probably heard the “love Scripture” sometime in your life, and may even have had the reading at your wedding. “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous …” (1 Cor 13:4-8).

A good question to ask as we head toward St. Valentine’s Day this Saturday is – How am I living out the love? Am I patient, am I kind, am I not jealous, and so on? There will be a lot of talk about “Fifty Shades of Grey” this week with the release of the movie based on the bestselling yet morally confused and demeaning book. This is a good time for us to review just what true love is and the goodness and self-giving it calls forth from our hearts.

Here is a primer on the Scripture from St. Paul, going through each verse to explain what is required or prohibited.

Love is patient
Patience is derived from the Latin word for “to suffer.” How wise St. Paul was to suggest that love involves suffering. Of course this has nothing to do with the hurtful behavior of “Fifty Shades,” which is really more an expression of self-loathing and indulgence. The suffering of patience is related to the self-emptying of the cross – the Passion.

We all lack patience at times, whether waiting for our spouse, hoping that our kids will finish a story, or checking the watch during Mass. Yet we must love through our impatience. When we’re waiting for someone, think of Christ on the cross. When our kids have tested us to wit’s end, think of Mother Mary “treasuring all these things in her heart.” If the homily this Sunday is long, thank God that the priest is there to offer you the Body and Blood of Christ.

There may be one thing that your husband or wife does that annoys you and you wish – over the past five, 10 or 20 years – that he or she would change. First, look in your own heart and see what bad habits you may have, and offer your suffering in love – and patience.

Love is kind
Kindness is not simply patting a toddler on the head or giving milk to stray kittens. Kindness in this context demands the giving not just of things but of self. Often the greatest gift is our time. If you want to be kind, give of your time.

It is NOT jealous
Jealousy drove the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. Having lost his place in heaven, the devil felt sadness and loss at the favors God bestowed on the human couple, and it drove him mad with jealousy. How often do I look at the gifts or good fortune of another and feel sad or angry, as though someone else’s gain could be my loss? It’s a hard lesson to learn, but within marriage you must never, ever be jealous of your spouse. Such a selfish spirit kills love and intimacy. St. Paul says to rejoice with those who rejoice.

It is NOT pompous, it is NOT inflated
People boast because they feel they deserve better or they want to appear higher in the eyes of another. The controversy swirling around NBC’s Brian Williams is a recent public example of what boasting can do to a soul. We may act pompous or inflated before the ones we love in order to gain esteem or win approval. But love is based on truth, and we must trust the other to love the person I am, not the puffed-up image I project.

It is NOT rude
How often do you treat family members as you would never treat a coworker or even a stranger? Do you reserve your rudest talk and actions for your spouse? It’s a strange fault of human nature that often we “let our hair down” at home and assume our loved ones must deal with our rudeness. Your family should not need to pay a price for your presence. Offer it as a gift instead.

It does NOT seek its own interests
To love means to give and to accept, not to take. It is a horrible distortion of love to always consider what you will get out of a relationship, or to manipulate another with affection for your own gain. Love means risking everything for the other’s good.

It is NOT quick-tempered
Couples can actually wait to pounce on a word or action. “I just knew you would say that!” Bang, zoom – as Jackie Gleason would say. Rather than wait like the serpent to catch your spouse, exercise restraint with your temper and follow the advice of St. Ignatius by giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt and putting the best possible reading on what he or she says.

It does NOT brood over injury
I won’t forgive her unless she forgives me first. I did wrong, but she did worse. These are common thoughts in marriage that drive a stake through the heart of love. The age-old wisdom that Pope Francis recently repeated to married couples holds true: never sleep on an argument. Outdo one another in expressing forgiveness.

It does NOT rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth
This passage can apply especially to the hype we will see this week over the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon. We need to reject distorted images of love and rejoice over the good that is possible when we love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. Then we will know that love …

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Indeed, Love never fails.