When I read St Paul VI’s (I love writing Saint before his name) encyclical Humanae Vitae last year, the section on “What Love Is …” startled me. As I read his descriptors of what love is, especially what sexual and marital love is, I immediately drew the connection to St. John Paul II’s lecture series “Theology of the Body” (1979-1984). The themes of sexual love within Humanae Vitae mirror Theology of the body. Love is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, & FRUITFUL.
Below is a graphic representation of God’s plan for sexual love according to Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical:
This article shares my personal experience with navigating the highs and lows of life, love, dating, and relationships with chronic illness. Learn how I’ve changed my dating approach, and how I bargain less and embrace more while being true to who God created me and the unique manner in which God calls me to express love and be loved.
Music can transport and capture in lyrical format a deep groaning of the human spirit. Lyrics are poems. Most lyrical poems capture aspects of human relationships.
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
God works in mysterious ways. Women marvel over romantic comedies, but women seek their own love story better and purer than even the best romantic comedy. We don’t want a cinema moment but a real moment. Not a cinema man but a real man. A man capable of sweeping us towards heaven not hell.
Maybe just the touch of a hand
There is an exorbitant lack of gentle affection depicted in media. Most sexuality is violent and aggressive or “passionate.” A gentle kiss on the forehead or caress of the hand is more loving and affirming than being bashed up against a wall or slammed onto a table in an intense make-out session (yes, I’m recalling certain movies in my latter description.) Not long ago, a touch of the hand was an act of bold affection, especially in public.
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
The love between a man and women is a part of God’s plan. Sexuality is good. Perversion of sexuality is bad. The love shared between a man and women reflects the exchange of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Marriage, the marital embrace, and procreation mirrors Trinitarian love and provides a glimpse of divine love here on earth. Sadly, most relationships don’t reflect this reality.
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
We desire affirmation in our relationships. We do want our significant other to affirm us and choose us on a daily basis and for a lifetime not in an utilitarian but unconditional manner- a Christ-like manner.
Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
Ah! The refreshing, lasting beauty of a pure soul. What a desirable and attractive quality! Men and women flock towards those clad in virtue and sprint to the holy altar of matrimony! Yes, that was sarcasm. Virtue isn’t hipster. Religion, let alone holiness, “cramps” Friday night enjoyment and socializing. People find holiness uncomfortable or embarresing. But the soul is evergreen, everlasting. The light of one’s soul should be #1 on our list of attractive qualities.
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
Love begins with a smile. St. Theresa of Calcutta always taught the importance of the smile.
Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart
Have you ever listened to your beloved’s heartbeat while resting safely in their arms? The reassuring, rhythmic thumping of a heartbeat is soothing and bonding- alive and life-giving. Though the metaphor pales in comparison, listening to your beloved’s beartbeat in their warm & safe arms is similar to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary with us.
But don’t mind me. I’m just thinking out loud . . .
. . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.
Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger. . .
Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.
Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.
Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.
Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . . The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.
In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.
Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.
Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.
Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.
Twas the Night of New Years and all through the house three creatures were stirring including the cat. The tree gleamed bright and cast whimsical colors and shapes on the walls and the windows. With my family snug in their beds an earshot away, only he and I remained in the soft Christmas tree glow while the cat never ceased staring in her watchful vigilance. All prepared and excited my festive wrapped gift lay upon the coffee table alone. No gift joined it’s side. I stared in astonishment and wonder. My mind buzzed and blew with more thoughts than Christmas ornaments. With each moment my brow furrowed and lines etched my face like stringed lights on the tree or lines on a stocking. My thoughts mirrored twinkling light colors all fuzzy and bright. Still no gift appeared and my heart lept in fright. Despite being seated by my side, I strained as his words floated in and out one-side. I heard. I processed. But it all seemed too bizarre. The words seemed too light and the meaning too dense like snow in a blizzard one moment fluffy and the next moment sleet. Bracing for a gift packed like a wet snowball, I quietly closed my eyes. The Christmas light glow matched my thoughts. Breathless I awaited.
Some rustle and bustle. A pause. A disclaimer. My breathe became frosty and slow. As I opened both palms to receive the gift, my brain turned to meringue while my hands trembled like tinsel. The cat kept her perpetual gaze while I stood frozen awaiting. A coolness brushed my palm and settled for landing. Daring to open my eyes, I peeped down. My thoughts exploded into fireworks while my vision turned into sparkling cider. Little bubbles floated up and up and up. Everything suddenly stopped. All fireworks and cider bubbles screeched to a halt. Numbness settled in and the void of pure silence settled. He waited for a response. A noise. A sign. A reaction. Anything.
A warm glow washed over me like candlelight Christmas Mass. The lights refocused as I peered below and sighed.
A ring box peered upwards while my gaze focused ever more sharply as the ivory coating glinted in the low light. Opening the box, my muscles eased. A warm, serene calmness flushed over me replacing the frigid tinged of panic.
“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” G.K. Chesterton
After talking to my beloved I said:
Religion should be a love affair. Faith should be a love affair. We all desire love, but most of us are afraid of the greatest love and love affair we could ever experience. A love that demands all but gives all too. How many times a day do you and I verbalize our love? How many times do we tell Jesus we love him?
Deep in my heart, I know I don’t tell Jesus I love him enough. To a degree falling in love with my Faith is disconcerting. Do I dare give all to gain all? Some days yes and other days no. Usually during the blossoming stages of a serious, intimate relationship or even a mature intimate relationship, you express affection and love in various unabashed manners. What if our faith was more like our love affairs? Well, minus the sinful and ungodly tendencies.
Wisdom comes from an understanding and acceptance of the metaphysical intangibles, i.e., the undefinable and not quantifiable yet concrete truths surrounding us. What is the metaphysical? Meta and physical- beyond the physical. . . love, truth, beauty and faith to name a few. Faith isn’t just a theory filled with facts and figures, but a love affair. Sure religion is comprised of certain standards and divine inspiration/guidance, but at the heart exists a love affair.
Like a simple forehead kiss that sends tingles to your toes, faith should too. Instead of wooing the fake counterfeits present everywhere, why don’t we woo Jesus? A love affair doesn’t mean that all feelings and emotions will evoke rainbows, butterflies, and happy-go-lucky feelings. No, a real love affair withstands the test of time, the bleak and dark feelings and emotions, and the strain of sin while focusing on a profound and lasting joy and life eternal.
What does a Catholic romance look, feel, and act like? Does it differ from other Christian relationships? Do our heartfelt relationships follow swoon worthy scripts of the popular romantic comedy? The Notebook? P.S. I Love You? Or do our “rigid” moral teachings, practices, and beliefs squelch the passion and pleasure of erotic love?
Catholic romances are individually written by God and the brokenness of each couples humanity. Despite the taint of original sin, our love stories are filled with a passion and fire beyond the popular romantic comedy or epic romantic fail like the 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight series. Our love stories, as any Christian love story should, mirror the wood of the manager that leads to the wood of the Cross.
But our love stories are worth a laugh. A song. A dance. A prayer. Even tears. I can think of many moments between my friends and I that are more than romantic comedy worthy. So I decided to share a few.
There is a special man in my life. . . . Not a shocking catchy first line. Nonetheless, the sentiment in very true. I do have a special man in my life. During the course of a close friend’s wedding weekend, I spent quality time with the above mentioned individual.
Here are a few first memories. I present the art of subtle, good clean flirtation:
“Are you going to join us? . . . ” When followed by a muffled response expressing he wasn’t joining us on the carousal ride, my benevolent invitation seemed to fall on deaf ears. I entered the carousal ride carefree and indifferent but puzzled.
“That’s more like luv not love.” I stared with a quizzical befuddled expression on my face. Internally I was thinking, “Only my family and I talk like that. On occasions my friends. Who is this guy?” Who in my general peer group actually knows how to delineate between luv the hokey superficial version of love rampid everywhere versus the real deal, authentic expression of Christ-like love.
By the rehearsal dinner Saturday night, I recognized there was something different going on. I felt a perpetual gaze and adorable smile penetrating the back of my head all dinner. Every time I turned around to address the bride and groom at the table behind me, smiles and light blushes met my gaze.
Scandal!!!! I’m alone in a bedroom with a handsome man yelling nonsense. He had no idea. This occurred the morning of the wedding while the bride and bridal party prepared before the pictures and ceremony. Being the made of honor, I took my job very seriously. Time arrived for the bride to don her wedding dress. I marched into the master bedroom and yelled, “WHY ARE THE LIGHTS OFF & DOOR CLOSED?” I honestly thought a fuse had blown in her 1940s ranch. On the opposite side of the master bed, a lone photographer quietly crouched on the floor snapping pictures of her bridal gown hung on the closet door while I yelled. Looking over, I blushed bright red embarrassed and mortified. I promptly marched out of the room and shut the door.
I may have aggressively competed with another member of the bridal party for the bouquet toss. The whole scenario was in-jest. I didn’t care that much about catching the bridal bouquet which I did not catch. The entire incident is captured in beautiful and vivid detail. This includes a picture of me going “missed it by that much!” When I looked up, a bright blushing face and smile met my gaze. Our eyes met and I blushed bright red too.