Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Falling in Love

I love love. I love falling in love. I love being in love.
I have fallen in love at first sight. At second sight.
In three days. In three hours. In three conversations.
I love reading about love. I love listening to music about love.
I love watching movies about love. I love writing about love.
Love is grand.

Right now, I'm reading a book about Advent. It's a book written by one Cistercian monk - Basil Pennington - about another Cisterian monk - Thomas Merton. Merton was a man who loved God, loved people and, for a few torrid months, loved a woman named Marge. In this Advent book I am reading, Pennington comments on celibate love, married love, and Merton's love for Marge in particular.

Here are a few excerpts about love that I love:

* Celibacy is first of all a giving as person. It doesn't preclude other deep loves, relationships, experiences of such love, even appropriate physical expressions. Fidelity to the Lord in this commitment of love does rule out allowing any other person or desire from getting such a hold on me that it gets in my way of being wholly to the Lord and of my placing those persons and desires within my relationship with Him.

* I am human. I fall in love. I have desires. In themselves, all these are OK; in fact, they are good. I cannot have too much love in my life. I cannot love too many people and be loved by them too much. Every love can be fostered by and enjoy appropriate physical expressions. But the celibate heart will not willingly allow these experiences or the desire for them to interfere with or distract from the complete "yes" to the Lord and the expressions of that "yes" that are due.

* When I am well centered in my love, then I can freely love others and enjoy that love and expressions of it. These all come out of that center and are beautiful expressions of and participation in it. I can be a real lover... All of this holds true for a married man when his life is well centered in his love for his wife in God. And the same is true for a married woman.

* If we are at all realistic, we know if we do open ourselves to loving others, there is always the probability that feelings and desires will soon arise. Should we then guard against falling in love? Such guardedness can be overdone and lead to truncation as a human person. Allowing the space for love insofar as our commitments allow and being ready - as ready as we can be - to struggle for a proper integration of the feelings and emotions that may well ensue, calls for a lot of courage and self-confidence in the right sense and confidence in God, the love of our life.

*** And here's the clincher for me***
* I think I would rather fall on the side of risking love and struggle, than risk being too guarded and miss the beauty and loveableness of my brother and sister made in Love. If Tom [Merton] deliberately chose to open himself to Marge's love and to loving her, it was a courageous thing.

Indeed, to choose to love someone is a courageous act.
To admit that love to its recipient is heart-stoppingly scary.
To know that someone else on the planet knows that they are loved is priceless.
But why not? Is there anything else in life that is worth fear, angst, hand-wringing, and panic, but love?

Who do you love?
Who do you want to love?
Who are you gonna love?
When are you gonna tell him or her how you feel?
What are you waiting for?

Who couldn't love these two faces - and the people that inhabit these faces?
I love loving them - and their father.

The quotations we copied from On Retreat with Thomas Merton. Author: M. Basil Pennington @1988
Based on accounts described in Learning to Love. Author: Thomas Merton @ 1968.


Amy said...

I LOVE this post! I didn't know that bit of trivia about Merton. Thanks for sharing and for challenging me, Gail!

Shelby said...

LOVEerly post. :)

Ella said...


You're just a beautiful and loving soul. Though we have never met your words have touched my inner heart deeply.

Merry Christmas friend.


giovanna said...

o gail...
thank you. i am really hoping i will meet you and your family in person one day.

Tricia said...

I just got back from a two-week stay near Asheville and while there read "The Intimate Merton." I love love also and felt the agony of his intense relationship with M. Can't wait to read more about his life. What an amazing moment to find your blog, the reference to Merton and the fact you live in NC.
Feels like a small world indeed. Your writing is wonderful.