Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment

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Part of "Christian Love as Source, Way and Fulfillment of Christian Life"

(including discussion and questions of retreat participants)

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So, we were pondering this morning to what extent love of self is legitimate. Is it a mortal sin, a venial sin, simply a neutral instinct, is it a virtue, is it a heroic virtue? These are the various options we've been looking at. What do we mean by love of self? What is love? Finally, we got to, and we were discussing St. Herod's three moments of love and how they just occur in a different order according to a more romantic or hedonistic model, and then according to the Christian, for the more romantic, it's first attraction that I feel, and that's decisive, whether it be physical or sexual or spiritual or intellectual, and I've just got to go with that. The more I'm just swept away, the better. There might be a little tiny component of choice, of claiming this, of honoring it, of free volition, but the main thing is the attraction and then very much the hope of


fruition, just enjoying this love as it's reciprocated, et cetera. The Christian model is quite different. It begins with Christ's command, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And on that solid rock of Christ's word, we will, we will in faith that love, whoever the person is, whatever the attraction, the attraction might be there, that's wonderful in the case of friendship or romantic love or parental or legal or whatever, or it might not be as in the case of love of enemy. And then the fruition, which might come in this kingdom, but it'll certainly come in the fullness in the following kingdom. So there's another distinction I thought we could bring in here. I've always found it a very helpful distinction of Tillich, Paul Tillich, a great theologian of reform, three ways of understanding law in Greek nomos is law.


Our first experience as we grow up and get into adolescence kind of is heteronomy, law laid on us from outside as arbitrary, as kind of alienating. And this is the law which I just got to do because my parents say you got to do it, that's all it is. Well, at a certain point in adolescence, we rebel against that and we get into autonomy. I'm going to be a law unto myself. Now that's what's happening over here. I want to, if it feels good, I want to do it. I want to be self-authenticating, et cetera. And this is what much of 20th century ethics and culture and all the rest are built on. This is certainly playboy philosophy, et cetera, in this line. The problem with this, as Tillich notes, is we're just too immense and mysterious for


our own selves, for ourselves to regulate ourselves, to come up with those guiding, saving directives, covenant commandments. We're just giving all kinds of traction. So finally, there's the movement of return, and this is the prodigal son returning to the father's house, but not re-encountering heteronomy, but now discovering theonomy, as he calls it. I've misspelled it, but there you are. Theonomy, which is the law written in our hearts by God, God's law. So it's not a law, as we understand it, as oppressive, arbitrary, from just some power source, but it's that commandment that fulfills me. This is the same kind of distinction that Marcos made, making between command and law. But it suggests the need of this return, so that we can love, and we can love freefully.


And it's in this line that we're called to love ourself, even when we're not attracted to ourself, even when we're aware of all that sin, et cetera. But this willing our good is what draws us back to the father's house, and it's in that line that then we love ourselves, not in the sense of kind of an obsessive narcissism or a ego inflation, but in the sense of just willing our own good insofar as we are image and likeness of God, in God's image. And if we're to love all the rest of creation, it just doesn't make sense that we're the one exception in all of that. And so love is that seamless robe. And so we're called also to love of self. This is the line of theology of the kind of Catholic mainstream against the Jansenistic


current and against, again, that Calvinist line and Barthian and Nigren that we saw this morning. It's also in psychology, the lines we mentioned of a Fromm against Freud, a Fromm who says that mature, free, healthy self-love is the opposite of selfishness. Selfishness is exclusivistic, it's suspicious of everyone else, it's just locked on myself. It's what Jung would call ego inflation, and that certainly is destructive. But a love in the sense of self-esteem in the context of this commitment of willing the good of every other creature and of their creator, that's just inevitable if I'm going to grow in some kind of integration, some kind of wholeness, some kind of healthiness.


So is self-love legitimate? Yes, with all these provisos. It's legitimate, it's necessary, and it is a very demanding virtue. And I think maybe in some sense, particularly for us Westerners and moderns and Americans, some psychologists have suggested that the most wounded part of ourself has to do with self-image. And the most difficult thing is to imagine, first of all, that we can love ourself, and second of all, that anyone else can love us, and third of all, that God can love us. And so this also requires a kind of turning around and coming back to the Father's house. I have a Jesuit friend who says the easiest commandment in the Holy Testament is to love your neighbor as yourselves, because we don't like ourselves. We don't like ourselves, basically, most of us, and as a result, that's the easiest thing. Oh, I see.


The easiest thing to do is to love somebody that much. Okay, yeah, that's right. And so when we're facing that kind of problem, as many of us are, it does demand faith. It demands obedience to our Lord, and in that line, we can go forward. In terms of theonomy, it's written in our hearts that we also are creatures of God, and God doesn't create junk and all that kind of thing. And then the theme of who is this I that I love? This is an extremely mysterious thing. This is one of the great Western koans that our Father William Johnson suggests we meditate when we want to be very kind of Zen Christian. When I love God, who is the I who is loving God? When I love my neighbor, who's the I? When I love myself, who is the I who is loving?


And also, who is the me who I am wanting to love? Perhaps there are destructive, how can we put it, parts of myself that I must really challenge that are more constricting and negating my full development that aren't the true I as God created me and wills me. Perhaps the ego, in the negative connotation, there's a kind of a neutral and even a positive connotation of the ego. Perhaps the ego in the kind of negative connotation, as when we get into ego inflation, that's not the direct and primary focus of our love of self, but it's rather that deeper, authentic self, what Merton calls the true self. Now this is the self where I acknowledge that I'm wounded, I acknowledge that I'm sinful.


This is the self that often we try to deny and flee from, and then assume our social posturing and put forth the persona and that kind of thing. And we want to love from our ego, our kind of ego presence, but that's where it is sick. That's where we do have to kind of pull away from, detach, rediscover our truer, deeper identity. And then it is that identity that's to be embraced and blessed and received. This is all very appropriate on this feast day of Mary Magdalene and Raniero's homily is very appropriate here. Jesus who comes not for the healthy, but the sick, not for the just, but the sinner. It is that, again, wounded, sinner, penitent,


mortal, confused, fearful, angry, deeper self that I'm to acknowledge, return to, and love in the sense of will the healing of that deeper self. In the light of that, then from that deepest place, which is a place of humility, then I can start willing the good of also those other components of my psyche, that whole inner village, according to some psychological models. And if you're a Jungian, and I hope we all are, then one can love the shadow. That's a whole series of exercises in all the different areas in there. One can love even the superego insofar as calling the superego to a less oppressive role and a more guiding role in a positive way, possibly. Loving the persona.


We need a public ministry and a public identity also. The drunk in the alleyway has abandoned any kind of persona. But this person who is still there and is still available in a ministerial role is willing the persona, not as this desperate kind of way to get more prestige and applause, etc., but simply my way to be present to others. And so love the child within, love the trickster within, love the escenics, the older person within. All this stuff can happen from the steepest place. And this is, I think, for the contemporary, who's also interested in psychology, this is this asceticism of esteem, compassion, benevolence towards oneself.


Saint Irenaeus says, the glory of God is the human person fully alive. And it's in this line that we journey. People are in such different places here. It's hard to put forth a kind of a generic series of proposals. Some people are heavy into ego inflation, inappropriate and unhealthy arrogance, assertiveness, and all that kind of stuff. So it's not in that context that one wants to beat the pulpit for self-love. But it's the person who's aware of one's own brokenness and mortality and all that. It's in this line, and that embraces most of us, that we can journey forward in this component of that second commandment of self-love.


Questions, comments about any of this? You see, yes? And I'm thinking of another way to put what you've been saying, in reading Malin's book, toward the end, he talks about we have to move from the role of the prodigal son, although we are always there, to intervene the father. And it occurred to me as you were talking that we have to be the father to that wounded, sinful part of ourselves. And accept that, acknowledge that in the same way, that in the story of the prodigal god, the father accepts the prodigal son. It's the loving of the prodigal parts of ourselves that's so important, and it's out of that then we can begin to love others. That's right. Until we can love those negative parts of ourselves, we cannot love others, because we keep projecting them outwards. That's right. Precisely, yeah.


Or we fall into desperation. That's the line of a Judas who goes out and hangs himself. He can turn anywhere he wants. That's right. Is the father accepting the only way, or shall we correct? Oh, absolutely. Now, we don't want to get into a mysticism of sin affirmation here, so that the prodigal does return to the father's house with the firm commitment to stay there. Absolutely. So he's not going to demand more money and go out there and spend that, etc. So, absolutely. But with the awareness that we might fall seven times a day, but not intentionally leaping, but falling. We don't know that the prodigal changed. The story doesn't tell us that. Yeah, we can't... And there's a kind of an acceptance of ourselves. Yes, there's an effort to change,


but there's a kind of an acceptance of ourselves, the way we are, before any change can take place. Yeah. And one of the heaviest things for Christian spirituality is this discovery that maybe I'm not becoming that more and more spiritual. And so, as Raniero is saying, that's the problem of the ladder model. That last year I was on the bottom rung, certainly this year I have to be on the middle rung, etc. What if I'm not on the middle rung, etc.? And it's here, though, that at least I might grow in self-awareness and in humility as this whole biblical and patristic guy. The person who exalts himself will be abased, and the person who abases themselves will be exalted. Yes? I've always liked... I think Jeremiah is what's known as the parable of the forgiving father, because there's the elder son, also, who is loved. And sometimes I think among artificial Christians, more of us are elder brothers than prodigal sons.


This is a real problem. And when you get into the institutional church, there's a real danger that the institutional church projects itself as elder brother. One of the misfortunes of this reproduction is it excludes the older brother pouting back there. And in that whole parable, he's in the most serious trouble, because he goes out of the father's house, but he doesn't see himself as distancing himself. And he's in this self-righteous position. He's not loving the father. He's not loving his own brother. And this is a very dangerous stance. And here we get more into the whole business of love of neighbor. But, yeah, that's a very important component. We don't know how it ends regarding him. The father goes out and with his most impassioned plea invites the elder brother back in. But, well, it doesn't mention whether he comes back in.


And that's the whole problem of the pharisaical and self-righteous stance that was much more an obstacle to journeying with Jesus than the penitent Mary Magdalene. So this parable does kind of sum up the whole of the Christian mystery. And again, it can be a model of self-love, certainly of love of neighbor, and certainly of love of God in the reception of God's infinite love of us. So let us say that we're going to go on this journey of self-love in this sense of a real commitment for our own good. We said that opens the whole thing of tough love. It's not just a yielding to any whim of the other or even of ourself. And this is where objectively and informing ourselves, et cetera, we've got to ponder


what is really the best for ourselves at this deepest level. Self-love then might be the very opposite of a kind of a hedonism, a kind of self-abandonment to pleasure, and will be, because that is so immediately destructive. And here in the monastic tradition and in the biblical tradition, there's that wonderful triadic anthropology where not just body, as in the playboy philosophy, we're not just body and mind, the kind of model of the ape in the computer. So sometimes I'm just categorizing and systematically thinking like a computer, and then I do my work and I go home, and then I just go wild as an ape kind of thing. And this wild oscillation back and forth between these two modalities of being, this is an implicit way of understanding ourselves,


perhaps of many, many moderns that calculated very rational thinking, and then just go wild with the senses or something. But in this fuller anthropology, there's body, then mind, not in the sense of just analytic, but also in the sense of the more intuitive seeking wisdom. But then there's also spirit, which is uniquely different from mind as mind is from body. And to become aware of that dimension, and to nurture that dimension, to nurture all three of these, this is the patristic and medieval tradition in a very careful asceticism and also care of self. The medieval monk William of Sainte-Thierry has wonderful things to say about how to minister to all three of these, so they come into a real harmony. And I think we've done a lot in these last decades


as we've discovered also all that can be learned from the Eastern religions in this regard, all that can be learned from the Native American tradition, et cetera, where we fit into the larger of nature context, et cetera, so that our body might really repose and flourish and be strengthened, and also the mind and the spirit. But it's in that context that we need to have a program of self-care, self-nurturing, self-growth, precisely to fulfill our Lord's command to love our neighbor as ourself. If we want our neighbor not to destroy themselves through drink or drugs or sex or God knows what, again, it only makes sense that we want this for ourself also, so that the command to love is right there with the need of discipline,


of ordering our life, of asceticism, the need to rediscovering that. And so all the things that we've read and we know about slowing down, having time for ourself, the real importance of balance with an exercise but the whole main point here is love the whole self in all these components and love in such a way that the body can sustain and also enliven and give concreteness and reality to the mind and the mind can guide but also be illumined by the spirit. These three are Brother Cyprian who's just about to be in a liturgical conference in Cincinnati. He's thinking of writing his degree on this triadic anthropology and all its implications also for spirituality.


So again, so much of Western anthropology after the, oh, the 1600s and the kind of, words are not coming to me, but the kind of breakthrough of the Renaissance, et cetera. Assume that it's the human mind, that it's the highest level we can get to but to be aware, again, that there's this spirit dimension which all it can realize and intuit and celebrate and be aware of, that this is up there and it's kind of the crown of who I am. Many, many people aren't even aware of that dimension of their existence and that's what certainly prayer and silence and contemplation and liturgy and supportive faith community are all about to affirm that. And a key thing here that I think is helpful


is a Benedictine stress on balance, on both and. There is a kind of extremist tendency in the modern psyche. I'll discover exercise and suddenly I'll be jogging seven hours a day and break down my knees and ankles or something like that. Then I'll discover sitting and I'll wanna sit there eight hours forcing some kind of mantra prayer on my psyche or something to go forward gently, again, with self-compassion, patience, acceptance, and to try to embrace the whole and let one component kind of support the other in mutuality. That would be the way to go in this Benedictine approach to it all. Some of our youngest monks have just taken the Briggs-Myers, for instance, and they're just delighted that they're this letter rather than that letter or something.


And this can be very reassuring. But at least as it was presented to us, it is a model that has its distinct limits, but it does suggest certain more emphatic polarities in us. But that doesn't mean to repress or have to stain for the other, but rather, as it was explained to us, precisely to nurture the other. If I tend towards the extrovert, that doesn't mean to get into a kind of a collective egoism with all the extroverts and to put down introverts, which we must never do. But why is the introvert pole in me recessive? Can I work on that? Can I strengthen that capacity to find an energy source within myself and not just when I'm with others and through being with others? And vice versa. Maybe I'm a very strong introvert. Well, there's some extrovert potentialities in me, so to work on that. And so with the thinking


is distinct from the feeling or the feeling is distinct from the thinking, et cetera. So this kind of approach to this model, or it might be the Enneagram model, whatever model we're working with, where we just don't cling to the immediate identity that it gives us, but then we start working on the other values and the other recessive numbers or wings or letters. That would be part and parcel of this love of self that helps us to grow and not just to get locked into one place. Any questions, comments on this? So for instance, one can look at these three dimensions if that's a helpful anthropology. Particularly the spiritual, it's that that perhaps we tend to set aside quickest with all the demands of daily life.


I certainly have to eat and I have to do my exercises and I have to do all the work and meet all the other people. If anything yields, it's certainly meditation, quiet, liturgical prayer. That, after all, isn't essential for me to be alive tomorrow, just physically, whereas eating and sleeping and then I need the money that the job brings home. So that can yield quickest. But in this anthropology, that's kind of the crown and completion of it all. And that's the ultimate yearning of body and mind. So if anything, to kind of lean on privileging everything that sustains and encourages and affirms my spirit and our spirit. Here you get into the community identity, not just the I but the we. What about the spirit dimension of our family, our faith group, our parish, that kind of thing. So to not let go too quickly


of time for spiritual reading, time for silence, time for liturgy, this kind of thing. And then the mind. Some stop thinking at a certain age, etc. and just keep going with it. But to continue to nourish the mind, not just as a kind of a computer analytic machine in there, but as this astonishing capacity to perceive, to have insight, to wonder, to attain wisdom. And so very good of spiritual reading. What do we push into our heads? Sometimes we're into a lot of junk food of the brain, you know. And not even to get into television here or that kind of thing. But to really have an asceticism that involves a nourishing of the mind the way we would inevitably,


three times a day as good Americans, sit down to nourish the body. The monks had this astonishing daily schedule where they would dedicate, according to the rule of Saint Benedict, something like seven hours a day to Lectio, to ruminating over the Word or commentators on the Word, just so that there would be this ongoing growth in God's Word, this listening and this kind of transformation into God's Word. And if that Word finally is summed up, as Christ says, in love, this would be the completion of this Lectio, this spiritual reading that then goes into Meditatio, a kind of meditative claiming for me, and finally into Oratio, finally into prayer, which is love, kind of in its claiming to God. In any way, also nurture the mind and also the body.


That's where some of us, especially if we come out of the Jansenist tradition or out of the Calvinist tradition, we need to recover this reverence for this astonishing creation of God, which is the human body. In what are we image and likeness of God? This is one of the questions that the fathers used to ponder. And many theologians, such as Augustine, said, well, it's particularly in the highest point of the mind because it is there that I am image and likeness of God as logos. So the body was kind of where I'm least in the image and likeness of God. That's where I get into passions. Obviously, there's no passions of God, etc. That's one way to go. But there's another very different anthropology. Saint Francis of Assisi, God loves him, says that insofar as we're body, we're image and likeness of God


because God assumed a human body in Christ. And so it's there most immediately that I'm image and likeness of God. And so to reverence the body. The problem with lots of hedonism and self-indulgence is it's truly destructive of the self and first of all of the body. And so we had questions this morning about what about self-love that gets into destructive patterns? Well, if it's authentic self-love, it's precisely committed against destructive patterns and precisely on the way of the enhancement of the whole person. So with this, we can conclude this first little phase of the theme of Christian love, which is self-love. Christ in the Gospel of John


exhorts us to abide in love, remain in love. And this starting with this first phase can mean abide just in myself, come back to myself, accept myself, reverence myself, insofar as I'm image and likeness of God and nurture that self so that I will be able to serve and minister to others and to God. Questions, comments about that? Yes? I have found Gloria's book, Care of the Soul, to be very helpful in helping me to bring the spiritual dimension and more concretely my life. She is a very thoughtful book, very popular book. That's been helpful on the spirit side. Good writer. That self-love as coming back to oneself,


St. Gregory the Great in commenting on the parable of the prodigal son notes that that's the line that Jesus uses in Luke. The decisive moment, there's the poor prodigal son there with the pigs in the mud, etc., says suddenly he comes back to himself. And Gregory says, usually we're outside of ourself. We're so caught up in distraction in the etymological sense. We're torn apart from ourself. So if we can come back to ourself, usually also in some way or other, we're running away from ourself. We can't stand ourself, that basic problem. But to have the courage to go back to the self, repose within the heart, even there in the heart of darkness, the heart of anguish, etc., etc. That's the beginning then of rising up and returning to the father's house and also the mother's house.


We don't want to weigh so much on the male image of God that we forget that other dimension. If there's not more on this, then first, in some ways, most modest moment of Christian love, we could go on to love of neighbor. Again, we're taking it in this reverse order from Jesus's commands, because this is the way it seems to work itself out for us experientially, as St. Bernard notes. We start with love of self, then we become aware of the neighbor, and we love the neighbor. And then from there, we start to move into this most elusive and profound and this closest kind of love, of love of God. So all this business about love of self, but if we don't get out of it, it can be a terribly confining prison. And we can lapse into narcissism here.


And this perhaps is a danger of lots of the self-help stuff, lots of the new age stuff, me obsessed with me kind of thing. And American individualism feeds that, and all kinds of stuff can feed that. So what really causes us to break out of that tomb is that we're to love our neighbor as our self. So that's an incredible challenge. So I'm going to esteem and reverence myself and all that, but that's only going to be healthy insofar as I'm committed to reverencing and esteeming my neighbor in precisely the same way. Because the God who loves me and embraces me and receives me back also loves and embraces and receives back of my neighbor. And so scripture is very emphatic on love of neighbor


and rather pushes more on that side. And here, someone like Barth might be right. That is, it's at least for many, you've got to stress more on this altruistic, this moving to the other, discovering that we are we and not just me, me. This is the Christian conversion. And this, based on just nature, a kind of a creation theology, we are created as social beings. We become human person only in the context of love received from mother and father and the language that we pick up in our capacity to socialize, etc. So that there's a lot of bizarre alienating myth in the whole Western, in particular, American ideology of the rugged individual, totally self-sufficient, etc.


So the second commandment in its fullness can save us from that. God loves me infinitely, but also everyone else. When I become aware of God's love of me, what do I do with that? I can just stop there. Or the only thing to do with that is then pour that love out to others. This is a love that most safely kept by giving away. Catherine of Siena, this very passionate lover of Jesus, she's very emphatic in this regard and has some wonderful lines. It is therefore essential that the soul be constant in her charity for her neighbors and in true knowledge of herself,


both and as I'm aware of how God has received me, then I can't but pour that out on all others. In this way, she will feed the flame of my charity within her. This is Jesus speaking through Catherine, because charity for others is drawn from my charity, that is, from the knowledge the soul gained by coming to know herself, as loved by Jesus, and my goodness to her, which made her see that I love her unspeakably much. So she loves every person with the same love she sees herself loved. And with this, as soon as she comes to know me, she reaches out to love her neighbors. Because she sees that I love them even more than she does, she also loves them unspeakably much. Since she has learned that she can be of no profit to me nor return to me the same pure love with which she feels herself loved by me, she sets herself to repaying my love


through the means I established for neighbors. They are the ones to whom you must be of service. Just as I told you that every virtue is realized through your neighbors. That's a very powerful line. Here's this woman who at the beginning could barely read or write, and she has all this sublime theology out of her lived experience of Jesus's love for her. But she says every Christian virtue is realized precisely in and through our encounter with the neighbor. And so that inevitably the fullness of the second commandment is realized with the other. And this, as we mentioned this morning, means excruciating suffering offering often. Because I risk being open not only to my own ups and downs and inner stuff, but to any suffering, any grief,


any depression, any setback of my neighbors. So it's an incredibly challenging way of the cross. I don't know how many of you saw the film of Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis. He was fascinated by this theme of love and suffering and how they go together. And he said if you walk this way of love, you inevitably open yourself up to the deepest of suffering. On the other hand, if you close yourself to love, the suffering will be there, but in a repressed kind of denied way that is incredibly sicker. At least as we open in love to the other and risk the suffering involved, that's a suffering that somehow purifies, somehow transforms. But then if you remember in the film, it's one thing to say all this, but it's another thing to be absolutely blown away by the suffering of the beloved


and wondering what on earth is it all about, etc. So Christianity doesn't offer any easy answers to this problem of the suffering of the beloved other, which is the heaviest cross that anyone who authentically loves has to bear. But at least it gives us this lived example of the suffering servant on the cross who is there with us and for us. So that we're talking just about the horizontal, if you like, with the second commandment. But in the Christian perspective, it can't be just that. Whenever I truly open up to love of my neighbor, as St. Catherine says, that is simply the sharing of the love I've received. This is agape love. Again, this isn't just a need love. This isn't just wanting the other for myself.


But this is an unconditional gift love. And this is coming in and through me. So to kind of let that happen. And so we're already talking about love of God. Love of God in the sense of God's love. That Anglo-Saxon genitive is so wonderful because it can mean the love of God. That is the love that has its source from God, for me, but also for all of humanity. But it can also mean our love for God, or it can mean just a godly love, love kind of which abides in God because precisely it is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God because God is love. So this is the Catholic, and I think Anglican, theology of love. That it is one love, one agape force and energy


with which we are loved from God, with which we love ourselves, and with which we love one another when we're truly loving as Christian. Some theologies have very different kind of loves. This is the danger of also the Lutheran theologian, Nygren, who distinguishes radically God's love from our love. And our love is always on an entirely different plane and is always basically sinful and calculating, and I'm just basically utilizing the other, et cetera, except in moments of pure, pure kind of miracle. But in this other, I think, more optimistic theology, also the Orthodox Church, we can open ourselves up to this incredible, ultimate life force, which is agape, which is the one agape. Karl Warner argues this very rigorously. It's the same love with which we're to love God,


with which we're to love our neighbor, with which we are loved. So, any questions, comments on that? At the Last Supper, Jesus says, a new commandment, I need you to love one another as I have loved you. As I see that in loving others unconditionally, first of all, it also means preferring them to ourselves, which is to be loved by ourselves. But that means living for others and not for ourselves. And yet, Jesus also took time for himself in his relationship with his father, and his roots, as he was always going out by himself, could he? So we don't become so concerned with living for others that we neglect ourselves toward them. As I have given you an example, as I have done, you also should do. That's the kind of text, right on,


that sustains, we feel, this thesis, that we can participate in the divine agape, and that is our highest calling. I mentioned, where are we, image and likeness of God? Well, according to the theology of Saint Bernard, which I like, it's precisely in our capacity to love. God is love. And it's at that moment that we become God-like, that we become one with God. And if love has to do with a willing the good of the other, or willing union with the other at this deepest level, then we become more, kind of psychology to the highest of mystical theology, if one proceeds along this way of agape. It's not that it just functions in one area or another, but it can provide a way of bringing together


just about everything. And we'll see, hopefully tomorrow, if there's time, it's a way of understanding church, what church wants to be as community of beloved disciples. It's a way of understanding what Eucharist is about as agape feast, what sacrifice is all about. A greater love has no one than this than to lay down one's life, et cetera. So all the way through, suddenly, the Christian mysteries that can be so various and can seem so unrelated one to another, can pull together in this one vision. So we had a question here? Yeah, I've been kind of struggling with a thought. I don't know how exactly to put it together, but if we truly love, that's going to create suffering, because somehow or other, when you cause pain, you take on the pain of others, whatever that entails. So suffering is part of love,


but there's something about the love too that may lead to suffering, I think, too. Absolutely. I've certainly found that to be true in my work as a therapist. There's something about that, the suffering that goes on, and I'm taking some of that on, but then you're appearing in a lovely way somehow, and I'm not quite sure if I expressed that very clearly. I think it's true. Just to use the example of the C.S. Lewis movie, Shadowlands. C.S. Lewis at the end of the movie, who's been through hell because of his love, is quite a different C.S. Lewis than the C.S. Lewis at the beginning, who's this extremely successful and brilliant Christian academician who goes to all these women's groups and talks about love and suffering, etc. But he's been profoundly deepened,


and so that's... It's somehow the way of the cross that renders us human. Jesus uses that beautiful image of the suffering as birth pangs. If it's Christian suffering, somehow it brings forth newness of life. If it's simply masochism, it's just the opposite. It feeds on itself in some kind of dark and destructive way. There we have to be very careful because if we do have all this bad self-image bred into us somehow by our culture, we have all kinds of masochistic impulses also. And the flip side of that is the sadistic, etc. And to be careful of that. Also in religiosity, of some see Catholicism as just kind of institutionalized S&M, you know, and the Mother Superior is beating on poor nuns and things,


and all these guilt trips about mortal sin, etc. So to break through that, but not in a way that I never want to suffer again. And I think that's maybe part also of the extreme insufficiency and inadequacy of consumer society culture, where basically I'm after pleasure. Basically life is about being happy, kind of thing. And if I'm sorrowing, somehow that's bad. How are you doing? Oh, I'm doing fine. So I always have my happy face on. There's some movie that our brother Cyprian talks about. I haven't even seen it. But the main thing is to always have your happy face on. But to acknowledge suffering and to let it be, but in this deeper way. I think that's part of the way. I find that very true among high school students. There's a kind of desperate materialism


that prevails among most of them. When the inner needs finally rise to the surface and there's pain and there's suffering, they flee to drugs and alcohol. And so this generation of young people are really in a bad way, I think. I'm very concerned and pessimistic about how our young people are going to make it. It's really a complex approach. I have a suspicion that all generations, you know, the incidence of alcoholism among... So I don't know if it's just the young, but this is the danger, the incapacity to be there with the suffering, to stay with the suffering. Yes. If I could just one more comment. I took a poll among three classes of freshman students, this is high school, as to what their favorite pastime was.


What do they most like to do? And by far, the majority said going to the mall. Good Americans. Okay, yeah, it is. And if you look at all the products of Madison Avenue, it's just, life is one pleasure after another. If I'll just drink this whiskey and buy this car down the line, smoking cigarettes, et cetera. And it's very scary how, what a pack of lies it is. I think we have a hand here and then there. Something that occurred to me, someone mentioned recently, is that suffering takes time as well as love. That, using the movie as an example, we cover in two hours a person's transformation. We think that in two hours, we are to tell them to go through something like that. And that it is a day-by-day process. And so they can take an enormous time that the therapists would know to realize that the type of student was just not meant to be.


And we want to manage and we want it to go quick. That's another modern thing. If it's not quick, that grieving that can sometimes take a lifetime. We're all grieving the loss of our mother, of our father, of dear ones. And to let that happen. Yes. I'm sorry. We have to hear it here. We're going to be rigorously, yes. I think that I understand one way of looking at spirituality as being our sort of seeking meaningfulness and meaningfulness in life and the search for a meaningful existence. And so everybody has one. But we tended to give the name of spirituality to something tied to religion. So in today's world, where that has been often abandoned by so many people, the spirituality that they have is unnoticed or unexamined, unthought. And I think really that in the absence


of spiritual wisdoms and traditions in today's world, in America particularly, that the great spirituality has become consumerism. That people have come to believe that by buying stuff, they will have a meaningful life. One more thing, one more this, one more that. And so it all is going to become sort of the cathedrals or the parish churches of new spirituality. And they promise beatitude. They promise community and sacraments and the whole thing. All the things that we have always thought is meaningful. Yeah, what Tillich calls our ultimate concern. And it might be sex. It might be drugs. It might be consumerism. We need some faith, some god, some religion. Just we're so inevitably religious creatures. And so if it's not going to be the god almighty,


it's going to be one of these other things. So that's why spirituality is also the whole prophetic thing of tearing down the idols. I think we have a hand here. And then there, yeah. I still see that in my daughter who's 16. I don't know. She's going through a really difficult period of time. And I can really recognize that in her and her friends. I see that. And then, you know, I hear or I read, you know, it sort of flies by my mind Madison Avenue has this target market, our children. That's frightening to me. My daughter is a target of those people. But the other thing that I was thinking when you were talking earlier was deserts that we pass through in our development where there's really long suffering. You know, you just have to hang in there somehow because there's no bells and whistles going off. You know, with a lot of feedback saying,


you're on the right path, or you know what, we've been falling on the floor in front of you. And you just have to keep going in faith almost. Well, not just almost, but absolutely. That's it. It's built on faith. That's right. And what Tillich is saying is it's not just we Christians who have this crazy stance of faith, but everyone. The person who commits himself or herself to them all, that's based on faith. They can't prove that them all will give them ultimate satisfaction or the whole yuppie thing of new and more fancier electronics, as someone was saying to me at lunch. That's an act of faith. But it's an act of faith that's much less convincing if you examine it rigorously than the Christian act of faith. You know, I heard something recently when Chris was talking about covenant in terms of marriage and what covenant meant back in those times


when you would give your belt or sword to them and they would give their belt and sword to you and they would pledge their life to you. That, you know, whatever covenant you were making, it was just this binding thing that it was almost shocking to me to sit there and hear that because my own experience of watching relationships, I mean, everything is so debunkable in our society. That idea of covenant, of what covenant meant in England's time, in Jacob's time, is not up. I mean, people don't make those kind of covenants anymore. Very often. I would just toss in also for the discussion also a plea maybe to appreciate hidden areas of deep spirituality also in our youngins, also when they get into wild stuff and drugs even and alcohol, etc.


The claim can be made that at least sometimes they arrive at that kind of covenant, that kind of solidarity that they don't find in the middle class bourgeois world of politeness and propriety. And mom and dad, mom's going off to tennis and dad's going off to the bar or something. But I don't know how many of you have seen some of these wild kind of fringe films like My Own Private Idaho or Basketball Diaries, recently Jim Carroll. That's based on the true story of this brilliant kid who grows up in New York, Jim Carroll, very profoundly traditional Catholic family. He gets into drugs. But in that culture, he discovers a solidarity and preparedness to give everything for one another and clinging to one another that's extremely moving. And sometimes, at least moments of it,


seem to be kind of prophetic challenges to a very proper religiosity. In this My Own Private Idaho, there's this wild scene where these street kids are grieving, blaspheming over and celebrating the funeral of their beloved guy who has died. And on the other side of the hill in the cemetery, there's a very proper Catholic funeral going on. He's very wealthy. And there's this contrast. And you have to ask, which is the true liturgy? And I think the film suggests the kids were maybe half-stoned, but they truly love one another and they're truly grieving. And so that's the only thing I toss in, that we don't get into a kind of a pharisaical, they're wrong, we're right kind of thing. But also here, where is their grief and anxiety coming from?


And why do they get into these desperate forms that are so evidently self-destructive? And maybe we're into self-destructive patterns that are much more proper, like the bridge club and the tennis, you know, and following the stock market, et cetera. Just a thought. But there's lots of suggestions that true spirituality is happening in these bizarre edges of society. Thomas Merton was saying that the real ally of the monk is the hippie, is the artist out there. Not the junkie, necessarily, but somehow God is also there. Was there another hand? Yes. I have a question. I hear you often talking about the lack of spirituality, about small beings in the cathedral, struggling with young people, running after drugs,


families have to deal with pain, and so on. Well, what is down about it? Why? I'm finding myself as a spoiler, and as somebody who has grown up differently, I speak very openly about including spirituality throughout the field. And when I come back from a place like this, I usually talk about it in workplace. And I have a tremendous interest. Now, they start taking away from how I'm telling them. What have I heard? When was it? How was it? Now, we keep talking, we keep naming, we keep identifying what's happening, but where are the places people like my co-workers can go and hear things, which I got from kids. I know, but I know from perhaps from families, from Catholic classes, and so on. There's a big absence of spirituality in this world.


And we complain about the youth, the youth and a lot of other spirituality. Where should they go? Where are the sources for them? And he also exclusively sits in a really small group and discussing this beautiful subject of love and trying to make it even more perfect in our lives. Well, but all that is not a subject in itself. This is something we should take it out. Now, where, how? Then he talks about this. What about our Christian? Isn't it obligation? Or isn't it our role to go out there and talk about that, not criticizing? Not criticizing that young people do not have spirituality, but tell them that spirituality exists. And let them see in what we do and how we enjoy that, that it's worth investigating or even to try,


just like they did to try to join us. Yeah, I think this is a huge topic of how to evangelize, basically, in the best sense of that word. I'm very serious about it. But I talked to a lot of people that I found very difficult. Because I felt like I was the only one who was trying to do something and I was doing it correctly to begin with. So I told the doctor. Well, now I'm totally understanding it. For me, this is a seminar of how to do it. And not a seminar to just indulge and enrich myself. And that was my purpose of coming here. And I think the how to, I hope you won't have expectations that won't be met here. There are whole groups that are exploring the theme of how do evangelism today, evangelism in the best sense of announcing the good news. First of all, to ourselves, we need that light. And then to others around us.


And here there's a whole range of proposals of almost pastoral approaches, et cetera. So I would just suggest that it's not that religion, spirituality, and God is in some places and not in others. The good news is that God is everywhere and working everywhere in the most hidden ways. So part of it is being there. But I would think that the bottom line we could offer here in terms of our topic is love. That is, if you just love the other or the others. You might try this strategy. You might try that strategy. But sooner or later, this will have an impact. It might be years down the lines. But if anyone perceives that they're authentically, truly loved, not in an exploitive way, not to proselytize or because I've got the truth and you have, but truly concerned for the well-being of the other, that's astonishing. And that always, that's, I think, the basic how-to.


Jesus says, they will know you are my disciples by your love kind of thing. So that would be. It means that everybody will know that you're my disciple because they will be there to love each other. It means that there's a reveal of that because we have an army of young people who have seen love in us, in Jesus Christ, and rather the chief excitement. Yeah, yeah. It's certainly an indictment of what's happening in Christianity. This is a Christian nation and millions of Christians all over the world. But there's this extreme poverty. So I think this optic, however many churches we have and how much money in the Vatican, et cetera, this calls us back to deep humility. And that's an important starting place. And I think reverence, I think dialogue with the other, awareness that God is working through the other.


We can't have a model according to which the world is getting less and less and less Christian, more and more post-Christian. We can get anxious about that, et cetera. This is widely discussed and debated. A very serious American sociologist of religion, Andrew Greeley, he argues that we're not getting away from deep commitment to God as we get more secular. He says the two are not opposite at all. And he said, we are as fully a spiritual society today as we were in the Middle Ages, as we were in the sixth century, et cetera. It's a great mystery. But there are ways of exploring this as he has. So without falling into anxiety, or I think, without falling into great ambitions of, we've got to get this many converts to our particular denomination or something. But I think, again, in terms of our weekend, the bottom line is our Lord summing up in those commandments.


If we do that, we'll be doing what we're called to do. So Jesus takes his first apostle, Peter, and to guarantee that he'll firm up the other apostles. Do you love me? Feed my lambs. It's from that place that we can really fruitfully minister, I think, yes. As you know, I'm a teacher also. And I work with those who oftentimes forget what I say. But students come back, just as perhaps we have come back. And time and time again, when they do come back, they tell me that I was a victim, a non-judgmental,


even though I had them confused, but that I was a witness for them and to them. I remember my own dear father telling me as an adult that if he so depended on me, he would not repeat my 15th year. It was a difficult year for my father. I thought it was wonderful for me, but it was very difficult for my father and my mother. I say that in passing, because I can relate to that. My own children are well in their 30s. The youngest is a recovering addict and alcoholic. Zora Marie would share that if she were here. She has come a long way, as I think we all have. But we continue.


We build on. We have today what we learned from yesterday. And we have a future that we'll build on, too. And certainly my family has told me that and demonstrated that to me, as well as my students. We never know what we've said, what we've done, how it will affect them. We might never know. But the fact that we do the very best we can each day contributes to the community of the world. What can I do to change the conditions in Bosnia? What can I do to change the conditions in Somalia? Pray, yes, pray.


Power of prayer. But I can do something in what I'm called to do today. I might not want to do it. It might not be attractive. It might not be ego-fulfilling. But this is what I'm called to do. And this is what I must do. I think that's right on. Each one of us, I think, has a call to a specific place. And it's there where we're called to love. And it can be extremely efficacious. Maybe not in terms of hundreds of thousands suddenly doing god knows what. But in terms of maybe one life radically changed. One of my griefs is that I can't go back and find a couple of teachers, at least in junior high, who absolutely changed my life. In terms of, I don't even know if they were Christian, but in terms of their commitment to my good that just turned around my perspective.


And also friends, etc. So I think it is this miracle. Sometimes we plant a seed and maybe it'll be only years later that maybe it'll word or being available or something. But the role of the teacher, I think, is absolutely sacramental. And if you're there, that's your way to, I think, witness to the good news. Why don't we take one more question and then we're quite over. And then we'll conclude our third session. Thank you for this rich discussion. So yes. Just a comment off of hers. I was a teacher for many years and I, too, had memorable experiences. My husband taught us in the school district. I don't teach anymore, but he would get my kids. And I never knew what he was going to tell me had influenced them. You know, it's just the wildest, craziest stuff. A word that I have often forgotten was really important


to me, of course, to say that love is very particular. I'm sorry. Love is very particular. You know, we talk about it in this big abstract, but the enactment of love is very particular. It is a particular act, a particular moment. It is a particular way of being with a person, a particular moment or a particular whatever. It's very particular. And we never know what it's going to, where it's going to go. So I have come to, over my years, to understand that really clearly. That's a lesson in humility for me because I can't influence a lot of people. I can only influence a particular person in a particular moment. And I never know what that's going to be.


It may not be what I think it is. That's right. And we don't have to depend on success. Merton says, if anything, expect unsuccess. Lots of the ideology of modern society is bigness and big success. And the thing you can't be is a failure. But some ways of reading the cross is this ultimate failure of Jesus, whose few disciples scatter and deny him, etc. So that particularity, I think that's right on. And another way of expressing that is it's incarnate, and it's enfleshed, and it's person to person. Chesterton has that delightful limerick. I learned this trick, and I learned it without labor, to love all of humanity and to hate my next-door neighbor. But we'll see that. That this is the difficulty. The person right there next to me with whom I'm called to work,


that's the problem, not the great fields of evangelism over the hill. I just had a comment. I thought the love of an action, like you go out there and do something good, and you change all the people and people. That's where our problem is, our confusion. Finally, I learned that love is a critical position. You have always been that willing and accepting and loving state of mind when you approach people without counting and assessing that there's a need for love in a specific form, like a person who could help and could just take an action to accomplish their neighbor's business afterwards. Now, coming with the critical position and the indulgence to come out and serve whatever will be required, the openness, not finite, not defined.


It's just be there. Be their way. And I think that was very successful, and it made a tremendous change, but the result, even though it was very important, but I didn't realize that results come not from structured planning and action, but just from not reacting. It's very difficult to be that state. I think that's right on. That's in some ways its point is to get back from the level of doing and achieving to the level just to be, as you say, in that predisposition. I think that's right on. And I noticed that when I watched Stephen of Nazareth, I think that the third or fourth time, I realized that he wasn't doing it today. He's in deep form right now. And I'm doing a great discovery. I was very embarrassed when he started that text. So I thought it was very helpful. And this enables us to get back to a kind of a contemplative place where we allow ourselves to be,


and we just kind of abide in the I am of God. With that, why don't we conclude, and we'll see each other tomorrow morning at... Thank you.