Share the Love

Inspired by It’s Good To Be Here: A Disabled Woman’s Reflections on the Sacred Wonder of Being Human by Christina Chase, published by Sophia Institute Press, December 2019.

It’s that time of year again.

Photograph of Vintage Valentine with roses that reads "Happy Valentine's Day"
Photo by Naomi Irons on Unsplash

The quiet time between Christmas and spring, the time when online bloggers lament the long winter and Central Californians prepare for spring blooming and almond blossoms. It is the time for baby photo shoots in the orchards and Valentine’s Day. It is the time for mini-perfume sets and scented bath products for sale on Target end caps. 

I embrace any chance for a festive celebration. I welcome the Belgium chocolates, Pink Champagne, and sentimental movies. I understand that Valentine’s Day can be a source of irritation for some who would limit it to a mere romantic celebration. 

We should show love every day of the year, they say, arguing against its manufactured nature, accusing it of being a product of Hallmark’s reach through culture and need for big-box retailers to make a buck in February during the cold season. 

However,

when we look to children we see an example of how we can receive days such as these.

Children are not limited by the utilitarian ends of advertisers. A Valentine’s Day party is nearly as exciting as any holiday party except Christmas which comes with a vacation. 

Children do not need an excuse to celebrate. For most of them, life itself is the excuse and candy is the accessory. We buy thin cardboard boxes of cartoon Valentine’s to be handed out at will, possibly with names written on them, possibly with a piece of chocolate taped to them, but assuredly with excitement. In exchange, our children receive scraps of paper with cartoon figures and possibly their name and possibly a piece of chocolate taped to it. These become treasures for the week. 

Love extends beyond their inner circle to as big a circle as they can muster. 

“Love is Love,” people say but love is a very particular, splendid and varied thing. There are many types of love. Each one has an important role in forming the shape of our lives. C.S. Lewis, drawing from Greek philosophy, identified four types of love. 

Undoubtedly there is romantic love, called “eros.” There is “storge,” a bond of empathy, fondness and familiarity. There is “philios,” or brotherly love, that love between friends as close to siblings with shared values interests and activities. There is the love of self-gift and sacrifice, called “agape.”

Contrary to the message received about Valentine’s Day through romantic comedies, philosophically, the love of friends is considered grander than romantic love because it takes more of ourselves and shares more of ourselves. It is the thing that makes romantic love worthwhile in the end, worth lasting 50 years or more. 

I cannot seek friendship only with the desire to be friends. I must look for shared interests and then the friendship will grow. 

But what of “agape,” that selfless love? 

During Advent, I read the book, It Is Good To Be Here: A Disabled Woman’s Reflections on the Sacred Wonder of Being Human by Christina Chase. As I sat overwhelmed by the exhaustion of my pregnancy, occupied with fear and the desire to hope for the health of my child at risk for a genetic condition, Christina Chase, who lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, grieves the fact that she can never marry or have children and confronts the fact that her life is wholly dependent on the caregiving of others. In the book she shares with the reader her journey, in that confrontation, in the question of suffering, in the grief of a life she cannot live and in the joy, the smile, the wonder, the depth of spiritual richness found only through suffering. She gives us her wisdom of the value of life and the role of love – self-giving love – agape.

She writes,

“Illness and disability do not block our ability to be truly and fully joyful because our true and complete joy comes from living in harmony with divine love, and truly giving and receiving love.”

It’s Good to Be Here, 62

And later,

“What every person can do, even someone who is in a vegetative state, is intimately participate in God’s love…In receiving loving care from others, they are enabling those others to encounter the divine.”

It’s Good to Be Here, 160

So this Valentine’s day, share the love, of familiarity, friendship, romance and, above all, gift.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Photos of the week (v)

It’s all personal today!

Recently, we drove the 2.5 hours to Monterrey to visit the Aquarium. I love Pacheco Pass. I find the hills breathtaking.

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Preparations began for Miriam’s First Holy Communion. I decided to take out my wedding dress, which I love but had not laid eyes on since my wedding. In true KonMari fashion, I removed the fabric from the skirt (some tears were involved). Once the act was done, the decision sat fine with me. We will use the fabric from my dress to make her First Communion dress.

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Antiquing with my mother I found these beauties! Dessert and serving plates by Currier and Ives, Royal China. They bring me joy. The KonMari method is not about minimalism, so much as it is about surrounding yourself with things that you love. All the discussions about how many books to own are unnecessary for the book lover and, in this case, dishes for the dish collector.

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Valentine’s Day (sorry for the quality), we set out Valentine’s for a morning surprise. Everyone picks one Valentine to cut down on craft-stress out time. We observed the day on Tuesday in order to give Ash Wednesday its due. In the morning we took Celeste the bunnies and hearts.

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I am thinking about writing and photographing my own Stations of the Cross for kids. I took a quick snapshot of one station at St. Dominic’s when I was there prior to Peter’s surgery last week. To stand inside that church, as the procession moves forward and the organ swells, is like being enveloped in beauty. This is called “contemplative architecture” and it lifts our hearts to God. For parents whom little children are constantly distracting, this beauty helps one maintain or regain focus throughout the mass, entering into the kairos of God.

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And here is the little hero, waiting to go in. Everything went well, though recovery has been stressful. It was his 8th surgery in life, and his first outpatient surgery. As such, a triumph!

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