Tag Archives: love

Why fruitfulness is an essential mark of marriage

July 17, 2012


Whether you consider them fruit or vegetables, tomatoes are evidence of nature’s fruitfulness. Photo/Andrew Fogg (ndrwfgg on Flickr.com) Licensed under Creative Commons

Gardening becomes more fun in midsummer when the first produce appears. I like spotting the tiny cucumbers and watermelons, and watching the tomatoes turn red.

As important as fruitfulness is to the natural world, the Church teaches that it also is one of the two meanings of the conjugal act in marriage. According to the Catechism:

 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.  (CCC 2363)

This idea of fruitfulness in marriage raises some interesting questions: What does the Church say is the essence of fruitfulness and how is it part of marriage? How do the body and soul interact when married couples have sex? Can a couple’s union still be fruitful when they’re not able to conceive a child?

Just as the vines in my garden produce fruit and vegetables,  the body can make present one tangible aspect of the fruitfulness of love–a new human being.  Bl. Pope John Paul II writes about how fruitfulness is part of the essence of the person in the Theology of the Body. The body can add a new dimension to the fruitfulness of spousal love,  in a way that the soul alone can’t.

Through their bodies, God allows married couples to participate in His creative action and possibly become parents.   The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes puts it this way: “…wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

The Trinity as model of fruitfulness

God didn’t tell Adam and Eve to do anything that the Persons of the Trinity weren’t also doing—though not in same way. Love, consisting of both union and fruitfulness, is the basis of Trinitarian life and also of our being, Pope John Paul writes. Union and fruitfulness are also necessary aspects of spousal love.

Couples reach the peak of both unity and fruitfulness during sex, which is the heart of spousal love, according to Maria Fedoryka, associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla.  During the conjugal act the body and the soul intersect and communicate in a special way, she writes in her article, “The Family in the Theology of the Body.”  (2012. Manuscript submitted for publication.)  They expand each other’s capacity and each acquires a new dimension. The spirit gains something new because of its connection to the body, she writes.

Love is about superabundance. Because fruitfulness is at the core of love, the spousal union creatively overflows beyond itself—or else it’s not love. A couple’s love becomes a physical reality when they conceive a child.

Obviously, love doesn’t take this path with every conjugal act. Pope John Paul writes in Donum Vitae,  “Nevertheless marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation.”

Marital act is fruitful even if couple is infertile

In the “noble and worthy” marital act by which life is transmitted, Pope Paul VI states in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that an infertile couple always remains ordained toward expressing and consolidating their union. When couples can’t conceive or are not seeking to achieve pregnancy for a legitimate reason, they can express the fruitfulness of their conjugal act by serving others.

“In fact,” writes John Paul II, “every act of true love towards a human being bears witness to and perfects the spiritual fecundity of the family, since it is an act of obedience to the deep inner dynamism of love as self-giving to others.”

Clearly, to love means to be fruitful, but fruitfulness in marriage holds the potential for the most profound collaboration with God in the creation of new human life.

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The love theme in the second readings of Easter, Year B

April 27, 2012


St. John the Evangelist with book and quill at St. Michael in Madison, WI.

Love: Unifying Thread of the Second Readings of Easter B. Love is the hub around which the second readings of Easter, Year B, rotate. This series is taken from the First Letter of John, the sequence begins on Week Two and continues to Week Six, and love is mentioned in every scripture passage.

An Extension of the Gospel of John. The centrality of love in 1 John closely coincides with the love message in John’s gospel. Jesus spoke emphatically about the importance of love when he said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another” (Jn 13:34a; 15:17). If a disciple does not know precisely how to do this, Jesus instructed his followers to imitate him: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). For Jesus, love is the litmus test of discipleship, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). He further explained that his type of love is sacrificial, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Love, a Timely Easter Message. Love is one of the most tangible ways that the risen Christ abides with us after his Ascension to heaven. Also, as early Christian churches were established, love acted as the unifier and harmonizer in communities with newly baptized converts from a wide range of languages, nations, and cultural practices.

Easter Week Two B, 1 Jn 5:1-6. The word “love” appears five times in the first selection of the series taken from the final chapter of the letter. The love of God and neighbor are inseparably intertwined: “We know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 Jn 5:2).

Easter Week Three B, 1 Jn 2:1-5. Love is purified and perfected when disciples adhere obediently, meticulously, and faithfully to God’s commandments: “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him” (Jn 2:5).

Easter Week Four B, 1 Jn 3:1-2. The love that disciples are to extend to others begins with the love that God first extends to us: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1a), and the Father bestowed this love when he sent us Jesus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn 3:16).

Easter Week Five B, 1 Jn 3:18-24. John begins by admonishing the members of his community to not give lip service to love, “Children, let us love not in word of speech but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18); and then he refers to Jesus’ original teaching, “His commandment is this … love one another just as he commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23).

Easter Week Six B, 1 Jn 4:7-10. The most powerful statement is kept for last and acts as a grand conclusion: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Hence, the greater the love, the greater the presence of the risen Christ! The letter encourages believers: “Let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God” (1 Jn 4:7).

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Advice for life

November 29, 2011


In a letter to the people of Canada just before dying of cancer, Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, offered these words (I cribbed them from a column by Father Ron Rolheiser):

Love is better than anger.

Hope is better than fear.

Optimism is better than despair.

So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

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Help for teaching siblings they don’t have to be rivals

November 4, 2009


“Brown Bear, White Bear,”

written by Svetlana Petrovic,

illustrated by Vincent Hardy

The four-year old and the two-year old sat beside me, their eyes glued to the pages as grandpa read this cute little story.

Neither granddaughter moved a muscle until story’s end.

That’s a good children’s book.

The gist of the tale is that two grandmothers who compete for little Alice’s favor both gift her with bears. The bears, however, don’t get along with one another any better than the grandmas do as they vie to see which one of them Alice likes best.

Their teddy-bear version of sibling rivalry escalates to the point where young Alice needs to give both a time out — something the pre-school set will understand — and some good lessons follow.

‘Adult rivalry’ too

As much as this is a children’s book, adults who pay attention while they are reading it to youngsters have a good chance of picking up on the silliness of their “adult rivalry” for the affection of a child.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if Ellie (age 4) and Sarah (age 2) could transfer the bears’ poor behavior toward one another to the way they themselves sometimes treat each other. That’s going to take some work by adults.

But repeated readings are going to help with that, and sure enough, as soon as we turned the last page of this colorful Eerdmans book the plea came up: “Read it again, grandpa.”

That’s a good children’s book. — bz
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Be inspired to put love into action

August 13, 2009


“Love is a Verb,”
by Gary Chapman

“Love has to be more than something we feel,” Gary Chapman writes. “It has to be something we do. We have to demonstrate it concretely.”

And inspiring story after inspiring story, that’s what “Love is a Verb” reminds.

Chapman of course became somewhat of a celebrity with the publishing of “The Five Love Languages,” which sold 5 million copies.

Here he offers 40 “love stories” by a whole gamut of people who share their real-life experiences of love in action — often not what you and I — or they themselves — expected.

Many are by writers who have a vital faith life, so they not only know how to tell a story but they get — and pass along — the spiritual they find in the episode they share about.

Chapman, a Baptist pastor in North Carolina, makes each story a teachable moment by adding a “love lesson” at the end of each piece.

Read a story a day

This is not a book to read from cover to cover.
You could, of course. The brief chapters — the longest may be seven or eight pages and most are four or five — make for quick, easy reading.

Better to savor the piece and its lesson a day at a time.

In fact, don’t start at the beginning. When your — um, “loveliness”??? — needs a pick-me-up, crack open this 248-page Bethany House book and start reading a chapter wherever your fingers take you.

Let the stories soak in.

Then get to work.

Because love is a verb. — bz
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