Here’s To You . . . And Here’s To Me: On Love


“If I speak in human and angelic tongues
But do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
If I have faith so as to move mountains
But do not have love,
I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
And if I hand my body over so that I may boast
But do not have love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous
it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests,
 it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-9

I always find the Valentine’s Day holiday uniquely controversial, from the gushing lovers of the holiday (pun only semi-intended) to those who despise it for a myriad of reasons including  its consumerist tendencies and potential to leave those forgotten feeling heartbroken.

I admit to being in neither of those two camps and yet sympathetic to both of their viewpoints. In the end, I always come back to the above quoted passage when faced with holidays purporting to be about “love.” Given that Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians is from the New Testament,  it is likely not much of  a surprise that I am a Catholic. It is as much a part of me as the Irish or French or Italian ancestors who handed it all down through the years. It interweaves with the fabric of thought and reasoning I put into my life and beliefs of the world. Accordingly, I have had many years to hear these words Paul writes regarding love – to read them, to study and discuss them.

Yet, despite all those years of Catholic school and college theology classes, it  wasn’t until roughly fifteen years ago that I first really listened to the words. It was on my wedding day. The priest was a law school professor of mine, an African American Southerner who was raised Baptist and entered the seminary after converting to Catholicism at the age of eighteen. He was as sharp as a whip (still is, now in his 70s and semi-retired). He taught Torts to all First Year law students. He had spent a fair number of years practicing law in a big law firm prior to entering academia, all while being an ordained Dominican priest. He knew his way through the secular world equally to his way through a life of faith and devotion.

On that Autumn day, my law school professor challenged me as deeply as he had any day in the classroom. “Why are we here?”, he asked my husband and me, and all our guests. He went on to list all sorts of reasons people marry – loneliness, money, power, status. . . Then he turned to one of our chosen readings.The one above. And he declared – “Love is why we are here.”

He delved into what love really means, similar to the way he used to dissect his law students’ answers.  Of course, being a priest, he spoke of love as it pertains to a couple embarking on a sacramental life of unity. Then he  turned to what love is as it relates to us all, to our daily lives, to our daily tasks and endeavors and interactions. Love isn’t a feeling; it is a belief in and a dedication to that which is beyond ourselves, beyond our humanly instincts, beyond our personal interest. Love is an ethereal state of being.  Honest love is the will of the human spirit for the benefit of others and, that, I do believe in celebrating.