I met my husband Pat in 1989 when he placed a classified ad in the singles column of a local newspaper. Meeting him, I was immediately taken by his quick Irish wit, auburn hair, good looks, and self-confidence. His Irish Catholic background meshed with mine and the conversation between us flowed easily.
Pat was a widower with two young children, ages four and five. When I met them, they immediately tugged at my heartstrings, beginning a bond that would grow and deepen until the four of us became a family. In time, our family would grow and with the birth of our youngest daughter God had given me everything I had ever wanted.
My relationship with Pat started with all the classic romantic and passionate feelings that couples experience during the early days of courtship. I couldn’t eat, or sleep; my heart pounded whenever I was with him, and I reveled in the new and exciting discoveries I was learning about him and our budding relationship. It was one of the most exciting times in my life.
The Greeks have four different words to describe the various types of love. What I was experiencing in those early days with my husband is Eros. The other words the Greeks use for love are: Philia, which is the virtuous, platonic love shared between friends; Storge, the affectionate love you have for family; and Agape, which is unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial love that puts the other first. It is the way God loves us and, hopefully, we love God in return.
February is a month that we traditionally think about love as we celebrate Valentine’s Day. While merchants and advertisers would like us to focus this month on the hearts and flowers kind of Eros love, let’s not overlook all the ways we experience and are called to love in our lives.
My hope is that, like me, you have experienced love as the single most important blessing in your life. For me, those blessings have come through friendships I have treasured and the laughter, camaraderie, challenges and support they have given me through my sorrows and joys; and through the struggles and wonders of family life where I have learned how to share, settle differences, live harmoniously and appreciate the value of loyalty and sacrifice.
These relationships have shaped my life and are precious to me, yet they do not reach the height of what I have experienced through the gentleness of God’s love – a love most evident to me in what I share with my husband through our Sacrament of Marriage. It is a love that has grown over 30 years of marriage from Eros to Agape. Through the simple, ordinary, everyday ways Pat treats, respects, talks to and forgives me, he mirrors to me God’s unconditional love. It reinforces to me that the words sung by the main character Jean Valjean in the musical Les Misérables are true: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
May you see the face of God in your spouse, your family, your friends and in all the ways that God’s love is manifested for you. That love is always there. Take some quiet time during this month dedicated to love and let God’s Divine Love help you see His face more clearly.
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin