Reflection: Love is a decision rather than a feeling

By Matthew E. Weilert

Guest Columnist

What better month than February to talk about love? Before the tech and finance men go apoplectic, we are talking about the practical reality that love is a decision, not a feeling. Love is deciding to choose the good available to us. In his first encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI discusses three words: eros, philia and agape. These are three distinct expressions of feeling and action that we, in English, translate as the single word love.

Reading further, the pope opens our eyes to messages in the Song of Songs. The Hebrew "dodim" is an insecure, searching love, while the mature couple radiates "ahabà," which we translate in Greek as the more familiar agape, a self-sacrificial love that cares more for the well-being and long-term good of the other than for self.

In marriage

Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teaches us we are a unified mind-body-spirit and helps us understand the dignity and purity of the original design of man and woman. In faithful, exclusive and permanent communion, God inspires man and woman to speak the language of forever-ness, to conceive and bear children who are the image and likeness of the Divine.

When a man and woman commit themselves to each other and God in the sacrament of marriage, we are also asked to be radically open to life and to allow ourselves to give and receive that agape love. As vessels of grace outpoured, our self-giving agape love puts the spouse first. It trusts, treasures and creates conditions for our spouse and our family to flourish in every dimension. Agape is the physical reality of God’s eternal goodness, disciplined in the sacrament of marriage, constituted for the mutual satisfaction of spouses and the healthy raising of children in the faith.

When couples are authentically prepared for marriage: spiritually, financially, mentally and psychologically, they have the foundation of agape love, to "give-up" their own self-interest for the good of the other. Through the gifts of marriage and children, we learn to love others as God loves us.

With children

My young son, Stephen, teaches me and my parents, his grandparents, more about agape love in every move that he makes. With his shrieks of delight and his intense study of every new encounter of a leaf, a limestone wall or a wood lattice, we love him and he teaches us to love more.

Every child is a living piece of heaven. They are a glimpse of the Divine. My son animated a night-time drudgery into a sublime sacrifice as I got up two or three times a night to feed this little guy, watching him after he’d finished with his bottle almost took my breath away. As infants they are pure innocence, yet their lives are a breath-taking promise of the future.

To experience the wonder of a child is to know more deeply, more intimately what life is for and why we’re here on this planet. We’re not just here whirling through space on a big rock with water sloshing in an infinite-edge pool.

We’re here to nurture each other; we are here to give and to receive love. Nowhere does that truth shine more clearly than through the eyes of a child.

The Central Texas Fellowship of Catholic Men will host its first Men’s Conference Feb. 16 beginning at 9 a.m. at St. William Parish in Round Rock. Matthew Kelly, a well-known Catholic speaker, will be the presenter. This workshop is for men who want a thorough look at where they are in their lives, personally and spiritually and enables them to better love, live and share the Catholic faith in a more dynamic way than ever before. For more information, call (512) 560-2048 or visit www.dynamiccatholic.com.

Matthew Weilert writes on behalf of the Central Texas Fellowship of Catholic Men (www.ctfcatholicmen.org). He considers Ascension Parish in Bastrop his home parish and currently is a member of St. Louis Parish in Austin. He has one son.