Frank Sinatra sang “I left my heart in San Francisco.” What if he sang, “I left my brain in San Francisco?” Many times we concentrate on the feelings of love without also balancing the thoughtful consideration of the commitment to love. When we “fall” in love, we feel a physical response in our body: our hearts accelerate, our hands get wet and clammy, and we feel a rush of adrenaline. The lyrics of a “golden oldie” float from the stereo speaker: “I only have eyes for you ... “ Does the couple that swayed to this slow dance in the 1960s feel the same absorption in one another after 35 years of marriage? It’s not likely! So is the love gone? No! The pounding heart of burning excitement is transformed into a steady heartbeat of warmth, acceptance and intimacy. In their analysis of Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio(The Role ofChristian Marriage in the Modern World), Father Richard Hogan and Father John LeVoir say: “Unlike some sensual or sentimental feelings, marriage vows are always under the control of the ones making them ... Marriage, if it is to be a communion of persons, must originate in the will ... Sensuality and sentiment will then accompany the marital communion instead of determining it.” But the use of the word know to describe the physical act of love offers insight into the change from romantic passion to a mature love. Love involves knowledge of the loved one, willingness to commit, and the challenge to accept the light and the shadow of another.
Or I love you with all my EARS? It has been said that, “Listening is as different from hearing as noise is from music.” In the book, How to Speak, How to Listen, listening is compared to a ball game: “Catching is as much an activity as throwing and requires as much skill.” I’ve noticed as my children have played baseball and softball that there is a lot more interest in pitching than there is in catching! But catching is a critical element of the game. To really listen to another person, to catch what is being said, we must be attentive and actively attuned to the speaker. Webster’s Dictionary has a definition of communication that it describes as obsolete: communication is “participation in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” A special type of communication occurs when we gather together at Mass. Communication takes on a sacred quality. One of my favorite Psalm responses is, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” Think of the implications – we are in a relationship with the source of all life. God’s words of love whisper into the center of our open hearts. It is an invitation to stand before the One who loved us from the first moments of our life.
Or I love you with all my TIME? In the liturgical season of our Church year we are in the middle of “Ordinary Time.” Most of the time spent with those we cherish is ordinary time. How can we give ourselves to our loved ones in ordinary ways? When the telephone rings, we jump to respond – even when we know that it could easily be a salesperson on the other end! A way of giving time could be to turn off the ringer on the phone before asking how the day at school went. Giving a child your undivided attention is a gift that will promote a relationship of harmony and care. Ordinary days are filled with the tasks of living: laundry, meal preparation, family commitments to sports, schools and church, shoveling snow, finishing homework, getting the oil changed – the list could go on and on. All these activities may seem overwhelming and we wonder, “Where is the time to spend on what is really important – love?” The ordinary moments are filled with love because they are filled with the life of God.
Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a Professor of Psychology at Hope College, a certified Spiritual Director and a parishioner at St. John Student Parish, East Lansing.