Walking the Way of Love in Lent

Love–as the root and ground of our public discourse, as the only answer to the tyranny of hate–seems to be everywhere this week. I asked if we as a Church could, should dare to love those who disagree with us so genuinely and visibly that we might stop getting in the way of the message we too often speak with pursed lips and arms folded defensively across our hearts. And all around me others are answering, Yes, of course we can, we should. What else is there?

Cardinal Dolan, who doesn’t know from pursed lips, made it clear that ad feminam attacks like Rush Limbaugh’s on Sandra Fluke–though they echo the sentiment of some Catholics in some comboxes–aren’t worthy of Church leaders, even when they feel most beleaguered and set up. (H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra for the quote.)

Whatever we do, and however strongly we feel, we do it charitably, we do it civilly. We don’t judge the motives of other people. We just try, in a confident, peaceful, inviting way, to make our position felt, to invite other people to respect it.

My Anglican friend Jenkins Minor sent me these words of Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, channeling Augustine–he who all but taught the Church to purse its lips!

In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.  For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”

Rocco Palmo shared the CBS 60 Minutes interview with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, and added the full text of Archbishop Martin’s latest address on faith and Irish society, from which this gem comes:

For too long the Church appeared in a role of moralisation and people failed to transmit the real depth of the Christian message which is about Jesus as a person who in his life and teaching reveals to us who God is. God is a God of love with whom we can in Jesus enter into a personal relationship, which then brings richness to the way we live of our lives.

And this NPR piece reminded me that this is the 50th anniversary of the publication of one of my favorite parables of the power of love, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The conformist planet of Camazotz, ruled by the totalitarian IT (all brain, no heart, no soul), may have stood for our fears of godless communism in the 60s when L’Engle wrote it and I first read it, but today it eerily evokes the kind of religion-free, purely utilitarian society so many people I know tell me would be best for America. It is good to remember that IT is only fed and made more powerful by engaging it in anger, no matter how righteous we believe that anger to be. ITs stranglehold on the soul is broken only by love–in the story, the love of the innocent-but-knowing Charles Wallace, the kind of kid we would call special needs today because of our inability to fit his genius into existing social categories. The lesson of love’s power is often taught to us by those a utilitarian society classes as expendable, if we are granted the grace of listening to and learning from them–if we grant them the grace of existence. L’Engle remains one of my favorite spiritual writers, for A Wrinkle in Time and for her nonfiction like Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, and so it was also some comfort this week to be reminded that she, too, most often pitched her tent in the uncomfortable territory between Too Religious and Not Religious Enough.

Update: Lisa Mladinich is thinking along loving lines, too. (H/T to Elizabeth Scalia for the connection.)

So yes . . . reminders that love abides. None more profound, this Lent, than this face of love, beside whom we walk.

Fra Angelico, Crucifixion (detail)

For more reminders of what it means to “live in love as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering” (Ephesians 5:2), I recommend:

The Way — It’s not an orthodox Catholic pilgrimage, but it’s the kind of walk I’m walking right now, and you may be too. The story can get predictable (as what story of redemption is not?) but the performances are terrific and you’ll feel you’ve walked every step of the tough and beautiful road to Compostela. Buen camino!

Little Portion Hermitage — My friend the Hermit shares a daily florilegium of inspirational words, an instant cure for spiritual dryness like the soul equivalent of one of those sponge-pellet flowers you drop into a glass of water and it blooms into a rose.

Catholic Relief Services — The folks who know about putting their love where their mouth is offer an online Lenten series of Tiny Retreats.

And finally, if you’re looking for a place to give some spare alms, consider investing in All That Remains, a project to bring to the screen the story of Dr Takashi Nagai, the spiritual chronicler of Japan’s nuclear nightmare.

  • Anonymous

    I think that today we would say of Charles Wallace that he was "on the spectrum" (of autism). To which characterization, a child of my acquaintance replied, "Well, OK, but only if I can be indigo." Would that I could be as good at living into Love as I am at finding quotes about it. There's a Lenten resolution worth struggling with… with Love,Jenkins Minor

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the shout out, Ms. McPortland. I'll say here in a relatively public forum what I've said to you in private: I seldom have an original thought but there are so many people out there who do, I figure I'll quote them and call it good. Pax et Bonum,Hermit


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