Well here is the blog post I promised about the strength of real love, and perhaps more importantly, the strength of vulnerability. So I am a strong supporter of the Fight the New Drug movement and the harm caused by pornography.
am also a huge proponent of real love, of a love you can touch and feel and not one that only exists through a series of clicks and digital pixels. You might ask why I believe this so strongly and there are many answers to that question. I could quote statistics and studies done by leading neuroscientists but I will leave those for others.
Rather, I will speak for myself and my own principles.
My Catholic heritage and upbringing is what brings much of this about. Always, I have striven to be a Catholic gentleman who upholds the highest ideals of my faith: purity, love, respect and chastity.
Have I always succeeded? Of course not! I am no perfect shining knight. I might be a dented, tired old solider but certainly no shining knight.
But I always try. I want to be the type of gentleman who does not merely open doors and says kind things, but the type who shines like a beacon for all to see via his very presence.
I want to be worthy of my future spouse and my future life. And to be worthy I have to be vulnerable and love relentlessly no matter how much it hurts. I want a crucifixion type of love. A love that is sacrificial and giving. In other words: a love which is vulnerable
I have also seen a friend torn apart by his battle with porn. I have seen him come into the apartment crying as he fought his addiction.
It ruined a relationship for him and hurt two people I care about greatly. He once even threw his laptop into a pond as a way to fight back against his addiction.
His bravery is inspiring. But it should not be necessary.
We live in a culture that has normalized porn, normalized the casual nature of it and how it objectifies men and women both. But that is not what we want.
I think we all want a connection, we want to feel love. And not to be vulgar, but we want to feel love in loins, in our hearts and souls. We want to look into eyes and see it, we want to hold a sweaty palm and feel it. We want a connection. We don't want a click, we want a connection.
But to have that connection, we need to be vulnerable. We need to open ourselves to reality and to the love of all those around us. Rather than hiding behind a computer screen, let's go out to our coffee shops, our bookstores and the city and find love.
Embrace the vulnerability, embrace the strength of being out in the open and in the sun.
The strength of the vulnerability is it allows love to flourish. And we all want that. Not only for ourselves but for each other.
“When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth......
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself."
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.” -Khalil Gibran
If you give up because the path is hard, because it is difficult, because it is not comfortable...then you never really wanted it. You never needed it like you claimed. I know that feeling.
I wanted comfort, I wanted safety and I gave up. I surrendered to fear and to comfort and to the world. But guess what?
"You are not made for comfort," Pope Benedict XVI said. "You are made for greatness."
If the saints of this world gave up because their path was hard or because the world shouted out its rage at them, then they would not have been saints.
And you might say that some saints did give up, but I say they did not give up forever. Event the saints suffered despair, event the saints doubted, but it was what they did despite that doubt that is important.
They were shaken from their highest branches to their deepest roots. And so was I and if it hasn't happened to all of us at one point, it will. And that is God at work.
He shakes us, He makes us tremble in fear even at what He calls us to do. And if we cannot accept that we will be shaken then as Gibran said "Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor."
It's hard to be vulnerable. Its even harder when you know it isn't all sunshine and rainbows and it isn't supposed to be.
Spoiler Alert: Love is enough.
Painful, wonderful love is enough. It is sufficient unto itself.
To bleed willingly and joyfully, to love and not count how much it costs...that is a gift. Let yourself melt away, let your desires fall by the wayside. Then, let Love direct your course.
That Love, that Divine Love, is God Himself.
He will direct you and lead you. Yes, He's going to shake you up, he's going to tear you down. But just picture it: right now you're a cottage a by the sea, a small house. God wants to make you a castle, a citadel of Faith, Hope and Love. And the greatest of those is Love.
So, love too tenderly, love too much and even when it shakes your branches and your roots...love then too. Bleed joyfully then as well. Amen.
That quiet time in the morning is perhaps the most precious of times. When we can focus on ourselves and our personal self-discovery. It is here before the business of the day, before the rush of constant work that we can become ourselves.
Now, that's not to say becoming a morning person is easy! I certainly stay up too late into the night, but when I awaken there is something precious in that quiet morning.
You have your tea in your hand, you're staring out the window at the new day and your mind enters this state where you contemplate all the events that may occur. It's almost like a moment frozen in time.
You haven't messed up, or made mistakes, you're just sipping your morning beverage and thinking, wondering.
And that is a beautiful thing. We too often do not take the time to really sit and think. To look inward at ourselves and discover what we desire and love.
Do yourself a favor. Just one day, wake up early before anyone else, and just ponder. Ponder in your heart all that's going on in your life.
As you ponder, also consider what you need, not just what you want. When I sit and ponder and lift up my thoughts to God, it's easy to say "this is what I want" or "I desire this today," but it's much harder to say "Lord, this what I need I think, but if I'm wrong provide what I need today."
The quiet mornings are all together too rare and precious. Seize the day, seize the moment. Your heart wants so many things in the night, but in the morning the inessential dissipates away and what's left is exactly what you need to ponder.
We exist in a culture that constantly pushes fast and quick connections at the expense of steady growth and deep understanding. We are increasingly connected, as this blog proves, but we do not feel.
We are desensitized to each other, our lives, and the happenings of the world. What happened to chatting with our neighbors as we got the mail? The Sunday afternoon croquet games with the family? The evenings sat outside, gazing up into the starry night? Are they no longer relevant or valued? Or are we obsessed with faster and newer things?
The point I want to talk about in particular is this concept of old chivalry for we males in the population. Now, I don't mean the chivalry of the Middle Ages, after all many knights were just vagabonds who ended up pillaging their way across the countryside.
Rather, I mean the chivalry of understanding the value of each other, and women in particular. Each person has an inherent value which cannot be degraded, but so often we hear stories in the news of atrocities and tragedies which show people being degraded and damaged.
Their value is still there, but they cannot see it themselves because of this harm. That is what chivalry can prevent.
Maybe I'm a romantic, maybe this ideal of 19th and 20th century chivalry never existed, but does that mean we shouldn't dream about such a code? A code that teaches us discipline tempered with joy, romanticism entwined with respect, and tells us to defend and protect all who have been harmed or are in danger of being harmed?
Isn't that a dream worth having?
I like to think so. As a Catholic I think it's our duty to create such a world and such a society.
I think through self-discipline, prayer, and a respect for life we can make a better world where every soul knows and understands their own value. I don't claim to be some shining knight, few of us are.
But maybe its up to the dented, dirty, and damaged to start to build a world where these shining knights can exist.
Mere survival, simply existing, in this world...is insufficient. Our hearts desire so much more. We are called to glory, a glory that is capable of being enhanced by our choices, and one of those choices is the choice to love and be loved. Saint John Paul II said it best in the image above, "man cannot live without love."
That quotation goes on to say, "He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him."
When he spoke of love I believe that JPII first and foremost was speaking of a love of Christ. The reason life for humanity would be so senseless is simple: our very purpose in life is love.
To love our God with all our heart, and from that love will come the joy and the meaning that so many have been unable to find.
There is something fierce in our hearts, something that cries out for the love of the Father, and whenever we try to fill that with something else we shall find ourselves still empty, life still senseless. But fill it with Him, with the joyful knowledge of His Presence. Then, when every action is motivated by that Divine Love you can take the next step.
The next step is no more complex than the last one, but it is certainly difficult: love your neighbor as yourself. I think we all struggle with this one. It is easier to say "I love God" than it is to say "I love that man or woman who just cut me off in traffic."
But let us take a moment and think it all through. First, as a Catholic man, attempting to be a Catholic Gentleman, I would say that God has made each and every human being.
Second, it stands to reason that having made them and because He loves them, God has a vested interest in each of these souls. Third, I cannot say where YOU are anyone else are in their relationship with God. That is not knowledge I possess, but knowing what I do know I can make one ascertain.
A God who made every human being, who cares for each human being must maintain a relationship with them( as long as they are open to such a call of communication and love).
And if God has an intimate relationship with you and with that person who just cut you off in traffic, how can you say you love God if you cannot forgive them? I personally like to think it is a good question to consider.
Now, none of this brings the idea of romantic love into the picture, but I will bring the topic up, if only briefly. And I bring it up here at the end for reasons that will become readily apparent. I recently read the book Wild at Heart, which speaks on the matter in a way I think very fitting.
A man must first love God and make God the sun around which orbits. Too often we turn to our significant other for the affirmation and support that can only truly come from God.
Then when troubles occur and the relationship ends, suddenly a man or woman is bereft, and left with no source of affirmation because he or she didn't take the time to love God.
Sometimes when a man sees a woman across the room it would be better if he were to go alone to a deserted place for a week or more to pray, write poetry, and to travel than to go across that room to her.
First he must know himself, he should love God and orbit around His Will, and then and perhaps only then should he venture forth across that room and brave that first "hello."
Man Cannot live without love, and most importantly he cannot live and wouldn't even exist without having God's love first.
Who am I? I think this is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another in our lives, and I find myself asking it now. There are plenty of facts I can list off about myself. I'm Catholic, like incredibly central to my life, Catholic.
I am especially so here in my college career; I am surrounded by the love and faith of so many wonderful friends, how could I not make it an integral part of my life? I find such great comfort in a faith so universal, so monolithic and true that it has spanned the world, saved souls, and aided the downtrodden for 2,000 years.
Not even to mention the simplest pleasure of all: kneeling in prayer, my hands clutched around my Rosary, as I pray not for my own power or strength, but for Christ to make of me and my life what He wills and to aid my friends.
I am an ENFJ which means I am attuned to the needs and emotions of those around me. I love and adore to be of service to others, it's who I am, and what I enjoy.
But...this means that I do not always put my own needs first.
In fact I consistently fail to do so, to put my own needs out there, according to a wide variety of friends and associates. I have always found it so much easier to give love, to focus on others, this way I may ignore the tragedies and flaws of my own character.
Trying to help other people is much easier than helping yourself sometimes. But when one refuses to fill themselves up...how are they able to keep giving? When I fail to let myself receive love, I choose emptiness over the cup which would overflow if only I let it.
Now, words of affirmation are my love language and the best most secure way into my heart, which is another reason I'm called to service I love a job well done and I love being told "well done." I love deep conversations far into the night and the morning, the kind that send your heart reeling from the truth expressed and the vulnerability given.
To confess to your friends in the deep night things you would never say in the light and to KNOW that they accept these things as a beautiful part of you: it is a great blessing.
And I have always striven to be a gentleman, now I'm not saying Ive always managed to do so because that would be a lie, but I have tried. I even have a list of rules I keep to remind myself of how to go about this in my daily life, I call them my Rules of Engagement.
The first rule of course is the most important: Don't lie, not even to yourself. And that's one reason why I am doing this: I refuse to lie to myself or the world. Vulnerability and openness is the the only true strength available.
This is not to say I do not have a great many flaws and various problems, mind you. I'm proud to a point, and while I've been working on it, I am still a difficult person to get along with when my pride is pricked by criticism or perceived injustices.
Humility has always been so hard for me, the constant struggle to not think less of yourself, but as Chesterton said, to think of yourself less.
To look at the achievements of another and to be just as happy and proud for them and their work as if I had done it: this is a great struggle for me. And it doesn't help that I am just simply bullheaded about getting my way most of the time.
Sitting next to pride in my life is its cousin vanity. I'm a very vain soul, one who enjoys my comforts, my luxuries, and well to put it bluntly since I'm telling much, I enjoy trying to look good. As you may be understanding pride really is a bit of a problem for yours truly here.
So who am I? I don't know, and that's perhaps the best answer I can give.
I am like everyone else. A flawed human being, in search of deeper love and meaningful truth. I mess up, as do we all.
I have my own personal tragedies of which the world knows not, but they help me smile brighter, laugh louder, and pray more fervently. I still make missteps, but I will grow.
Hopefully with more friends along the way who will join me in my smiling, my laughing, and my praying. With them, and more importantly with prayer, I am capable of anything and everything.
So there is this show called Downton Abbey, you may have heard of it. Well, if you haven't you're about to because it is one of my favourite shows by far and I am currently rewatching it. So in Downton Abbey there are a set of characters, a couple actually named Anna and John Bates. Now in season 3 these two are separated, John is accused of a crime he did not commit and is sentenced to life in prison and Anna is still working as a lady's maid in an aristocratic household. There is this one particular episode when Anna and John are not receiving each others letters, the guards at the prison are withholding them.
Now this continues on with no letters for a period of weeks and both of the Bates are starting to lose faith. They each assume that the other gave up, is moving on or just doesn't care.
But that is not true. And to skip to the end a little, they both realize the truth and by the end of the episode are reading each others letters long into the night. As they read these letters of love, they laugh and they cry and they are so relieved at last.
They're relieved of course because their hope was rewarded. They sat there week after week waiting for a letter that never came until almost too late but they still had hope.
That is a marvelous thing.
It can often be hard to be hopeful in the midst of fear, heartbreak and tragedy. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do.
We are called to be hopeful, to be joyful in our hope, confident with the knowledge that God works all things to our benefit.
Yes, there will be tears, there will be doubts and sometimes we will let our worst selves win.
But we are not the sum of our failures, but the sum of God's Love for us. And once we fall we can only press forward. Behind us lies a chasm that we barely knew we jumped and before us lies a road. A road that will often times be painful, it won't always be rewarding and sometimes you will flat be told no.
But the nature of hope is the trust that at the end of that road we will find the great Yes, the magnificent reward and bliss that cannot be denied.
So go forward, hopeful into the night. Hopeful with the knowledge of Anna and John Bates that no matter what comes hope remains long into the night.