Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Introducing November: My Least Favorite Month

I like just about every month of the year. Even those months in the dead of winter when those of us in the northeast have just about had it with snow and freezing temperatures—even those months I can appreciate. But November…I just don’t like it.
November and I have not had a very good track record. For about the past ten years, November has given me challenges, frustrations, heartaches, and/or disappointments. The death of a loved one, the hospitalization of another, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship—the list is long and grim.
It’s not just me though. I think November is intrinsically sad. Gone are the glorious autumn leaves and fall harvests. The trees are now bare and the plants all dead with frost’s arrival. The clocks turn back and both morning and evening are plunged into a deep darkness, so uninviting that I barely want to leave my bed or venture outside.
The Church feels this, too. The Church year winds to a close each November and eschatological overtones fill the readings each Sunday as we hear about the end of the world. Yesterday was All Soul’s Day and we remember our loved ones who have passed from this world.
Death. Sadness. Darkness. The end things.
November is a sad month.
But then, nestled in this month of sadness, is a little celebration called Thanksgiving. Ironic? No—very fitting.
It’s tempting to be overcome by the sadness. Sometimes circumstances can be so overwhelming, the grief seemingly too much to bear, that hope is almost extinguished and things are as bleak as a November evening.
Sadness, pain, and suffering need not have the final say. The souls we pray for this month are gone from us, but not really. Their lives are changed, not ended.
The trials and crosses from my Novembers past were hurtful and trying at the time. But those crosses also molded me and shaped me, teaching me lessons I will never forget.
There is always reason to give thanks. No matter the cross we carry, its weight will never exceed the blessings liberally and abundantly bestowed upon us. Remembering that and willing oneself to be grateful—even when things are bleak—forces a light into the darkness and, in that light, one’s perspective changes.
So I still don’t like November. Yet, perhaps because of what it represents and teaches, it is the most important month of the year for me.
May the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What is True Love?

A dear friend of mine, who also happens to be my oldest friend (since 6th grade at George Washington School!), is engaged to be married.  On her wedding blog, she posed a most pertinent and critical question: what is true love?
Her question is one that I’ve pondered a great deal.  My husband and I have done a good bit of reading on the topic of love and, after much thought and with the help of more learned and wiser persons, I’ve compiled a response to her question.  Without further ado, here it is!
Real love, in a word, is sacrifice. It is the giving of yourself to your beloved, a complete emptying out for the good of your spouse.
Love, by its very nature, is free. It cannot be coerced or bought; it is given as a pure gift.
Love is total: it’s a complete giving, a giving of all your dreams, your fears, your past and future, even a physical giving of your whole body. It holds nothing back, but generously gives everything in total commitment.
Love is faithfulFeelings of love come and go. After the “honeymoon” phase, when your spouse makes you angry, hurt, resentful, frustrated, irritated, etc., that is sometimes when love truly begins, because love is a choice. You choose to faithfully love your beloved, no matter the condition or emotions present. Love is an act of the will: you do what is best for him or her, day after day, because marital love is a permanent union that cannot be divided.
Finally, love is fruitful. True love is never content as is, but relentlessly desires to grow more and more. On our honeymoon, a wise man told my husband and me, “You must love each other more each day.” Love demands an ever-growing sacrifice of self. In its fruitfulness, love can no longer be contained just within the husband and wife; it naturally pours forth in the physical, tangible form of children.
In sum, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” True love is the laying down of your life, every single day, for the good of your beloved.