“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”

John 13:34

“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

1 John 4:12

Everyone has a crisis of faith at some point in their life. I have had an on-going crisis of faith ever since I became a Christian. Now that crisis of faith is coming to a head. They used to say of the early Christians, “see how they love one another.” As Catholics, we believe that we worship the God who is love (1 John 4:7) and that the Son of God gave a new commandment to His Apostles before He died that they love one another as He loved them. This is what my heart searches for in the Christian Gospel – the lived out reality of this new commandment. Yet, in my life since I have been a Christian, I have experienced more love, belonging, and acceptance with people who want little to nothing to do with God, or who believe in other gods, than with Christians. Even now, I live in an RV park. I have experienced in the few months that I have been here more community and belonging than I have at my own parish or any other Catholic parish that I have attended. And when I was in graduate school, I was friends with people from many countries around the world, from religious backgrounds from atheist to Muslim to Hinduism to elder worship. But we supported and encouraged each other through hard times, we spent hours talking about all kinds of subjects, they loved me enough to put up with me trying to convert them to Christianity; we had meals together; we took trips together, etc.. It was a true community that was formed solely because we were all doing one thing: trying to get a PhD. And yet, if I compare that experience to all my experiences as a Christian, I would have to say “see how they love one another” to my graduate student group rather than any of the experiences that I have had in Christian community. This for me is a crisis.

Yet, very few Catholics seem to care about this at all. I don’t really understand it except that it seems to me that most Western Catholics seem to view their salvation as an individual experience. They do not see their salvation wrapped up in the salvation of their neighbor. And before I go on, I fully admit that I am part of the problem that I am critiquing. This is why it is such a crisis for me because even though I can see the problem clearly, I cannot solve it on my own. Even right now, I lost someone I considered a friend in the faith. Reconciliation with this person is impossible on this side of eternity. And this problem seems to scale at every level. But most Catholics are worried, constantly, about things that are simply out of their control such as what the pope does or does not do, what their bishop does or does not do, etc., while their own families and communities fall apart around them. I fell into that trap for a while, but God gave me direct experience with the bishops and nothing that I did or said to them made a difference. If I cannot reconcile with someone that I have known for years, how in the world do I think I can influence a bishop or the pope with whom I have no direct contact? Yet, this is what most Catholics focus on daily in their thoughts and conversations. Rarely do they think about those around them who might need encouragement, reconciliation, or support.

Then there are those Catholics who have escaped the trap of trying to control things that are not in their control. These Catholics, however, err on the other side by thinking if they only focus on their own soul and go on some Buddhist-like quest of the Catholic version of spiritual enlightenment, then they will see God. But Saint John’s Epistle, which I believe to be simply a commentary on Our Lord’s command to love one another, says that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God will abide with us and His love will be made perfect in us. The example of the great mystics from the 15th and 16th century should not be taken to mean that the solitary, hermit life is normal for lay people, or even most religious. Christ could have said: “Love God alone.” He never did. Even when he spoke of the greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, He also said that the second commandment is like it: love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Do we think that we know better than the Son of God how we can be Christians?

So, I do not know where to go from here because as I said this crisis is a crisis for me because I cannot solve this problem alone. I doubt very many people will read this, but if God wills this message to get out then it will. I believe the Church will die out for a period until we learn to obey the new commandment of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At this point, it is so hard to want to bring into the Church the wounded people of the world, even if I could convince them, because there is so little love. And that is what wounded souls need, love, not more wounds.

Thou shall hate no person; but some you shall reprove, for some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.

The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles; circa 50-100 A.D.)

By: Natasha Wilson

Saints Augustine and Monica, pray for us!

8 thoughts on “See How They Love One Another

  1. + Natasha,

    > But most Catholics are worried, constantly, about things that are simply out of their control such as what the pope does or does not do, what their bishop does or does not do, etc., while their own families and communities fall apart around them. > > These Catholics, however, err on the other side by thinking if they only focus on their own soul and go on some Buddhist-like quest of the Catholic version of spiritual enlightenment, then they will see God. >

    So well written and content so poignant. God keeps speaking to me of this love and the challenges to love come stronger every day! Today we have the ongoing challenge in our home with the care of Tom’s mom and all that goes with that. There will always be something.

    I revisit St Maximillan Kolbe and the Little Flower frequently to help me. Have you ever read “I Believe in Love”? A retreat based on her writings given by Father d’Elbee? I’ve re-read it so many times and it always seems new. We will be constant students of love and I know Jesus would not ask it of us if He couldn’t equip us.

    From St Maximilian just this morning before I read your blog! “Let all also embrace their brothers with charitable hearts, enduring suffering and difficulties for God’s sake. Let them do good to everyone, including their enemies, only for the love of God and not in order to be praised or thanked by men. Then they shall realize what it means to have a foretaste of heaven and find peace and happiness even in poverty, in suffering, in disgrace, in sickness. Indeed, it is not easy to exert self-control in the manner described above to achieve this happiness, but remember that those who ask it of the Immaculata with humility and perseverance will certainly achieve it, because she is unable to deny us anything, nor is the Lord God able to deny her anything.

    Then who can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Mark 10:26-27 He’s got us and I’m holding on!

    We were sorry not to come to West VA this weekend but we’re always looking forward to an excuse to wander away from home! A Saturday trip to WV would be fun (cant’t this Sat or next because of caregiver challenges) but maybe one of these weekends? You are always welcome here if you’re in the traveling mood!

    Thank-you for sending your blog! God bless you, Kathleen

    >

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Kathleen! Sorry for the late reply. Your response is lovely. I should read that book, “I believe in Love.” I read parts of it during a retreat a few years ago, but not the whole book. Thanks for your support! I know it is getting cold soon, but you are still welcome to visit anytime before the snow comes. There are some nice wineries nearby and other nice things to do.

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  2. I am so glad to find a traditional-leaning Catholic grappling with these questions, which I find entertained much more in the non-ethnic Orthodox churches than in Catholicism. (I’m in between, a Byzantine Catholic who’s closer to the east than to the west.)

    I think we do have to acknowledge that our primary responsibility is to God. He is our source and our end, and it is, after all, He who commands us to love one another. But even without the explicit command, I think a full understanding of Christianity would include this, that loving and responding to God entails loving and responding to our neighbor, who, as much as I, is made in the image and likeness of God, and is loved by God even as I am loved by God.

    How to put this into practice? I think there are 2 parts to the answer. The first is that since we are all linked to one another, willy nilly, and that every single thing one of us does necessarily affects everyone else, each attempt I make to purge myself of myself and adhere to God removes an obstacle to His presence, in me and in the world. What I am trying not very coherently to say is that my own attempts to cling to God by prayer, fasting, etc., are not selfish attempts to save myself alone, but something aimed at for the entire world. But this, is the easy part of the answer.

    The other, what does loving one’s neighbor look like in practice is much harder, and I’ve been grappling with this myself. I used to give generous gifts of money to various causes, but, in addition to having become cynical about most organizations and about how much good mere money can do, I have found this way too easy. And it’s not personal. It’s not love. So far, I have merely tried to keep my antennae tuned to the needs of those around me and of those whose situations I hear about through others, and offer the kind of response that seems appropriate in the circumstances. I suspect that in my inexperience I have sometimes come across as officious or clumsy, but that’s not really a major problem. The major problem to me seems to be that it’s not enough. Perhaps all I can do in addition is keep praying for everyone, and, God knows, prayer is not easy, whatever else it is or is not.

    I’ve gone on too long, but you’ve touched a chord. I look forward to reading anything further you have to say on the subject.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Renee. It seems to me, from your reply, that you are doing well in balancing the two commandments and that perhaps you would be someone from whom I can learn. It seems to me that the fact that you wrestle with it, believe that part of loving God is tied up with love of neighbor (and less self-love), and that you have recognized the need to be there for those nearest to you is a great grace. Anyway, thanks for reading my post and commenting. I just started attending an Eastern Catholic parish. I am sort of taking refuge in the East (at least for now). I have felt for a while that there are some things I could learn from Eastern Catholicism that would make my Catholic faith more complete. So perhaps this is God’s Providence in my life. Keep me in your prayers!

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  3. Sorry to hear you’re struggling in the faith. Hopefully, you will find a better community, either in real life or online to help you live out the faith. Life is a long, difficult road and we all have our own crosses to bear. Perhaps you are being called by the Lord to live a more contemplative life. Have you considered the consecrated or religious life?

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  4. Natasha, of course I will remember you in my prayers. I gave a nod in your direction last night in our evening prayers, but I didn’t remember your name. If you’d remember me occasionally, in turn, I’d appreciate it.

    Re. the Byzantine Catholic churches, I love the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the whole eastern approach to spirituality, but be warned that the eastern churches can be as lacking in love as any other church. We’re all influenced by our upbringing and environments.

    But please don’t give up on the west unless it’s out of love for the east. I know that, among others, the Canons of the New Jerusalem in Charlestown, WV, celebrate a lovely and reverent Latin Mass and seem to be holy men, and I know that at least some of the younger families try hard to follow Christ’s second commandment.

    I’ll leave you with some wise words my father used to quote to us: Nemo dat quod non habet–No one gives what he does not have. We can’t give to others until we, ourselves have acquired holiness. May we all acquire holiness, which is fundamentally love of God and of neighbor.

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  5. Apparently as some other recent commenters on this blog, I just saw this article on OnePeterFive despite it having originally been published in August of this year.

    My first reaction to the article was to be kind of ticked off. The most precious commodity in my house is time. I work in a demanding (sometimes sweatshop-esque) job while my wife stays home to homeschool kids and keep them out of public schools. Those are teaching LGBT ideology from elementary to high school and various other gems like increasingly scandalous & explicit sex ed, probably CRT (if not now then soon) and likely other things that undermine the faith in very impressionable young minds. (I’m trying to get another job that allows me to work remotely so we can move to a red state from our currently quite blue one.) One or another member of my family is going to a doctor or therapist 3-5 days/week, especially my child who has ADHD & dyslexia and can’t yet read (at age 9). My wife plays taxi driver for these trips.

    Because the TLM is far more God-centered, reverent and solemn and seems to far better reflect Catholic doctrine, we drive an hour each way to an FSSP parish for Sunday Mass — in part for the kids, in part because we think its better for the souls of parents, and in part because I have long hated the NO liturgy for its moral compromises and engendering religious indifference. The FSSP parish is too far away for most other occasions (another motive to move) on Sundays. We prefer private devotions to those we’d find in most other NO parishes — and they’re quicker to do at home when time is precious. We don’t want and haven’t gotten vaccines and so stay at home nearly all the time all week. The kids go to some Catholic or secular homeschool support programs for socialization. We’re not close with anyone in our neighborhood in part because of being busy and maybe moreso because most of our neighbors are liberals. We’re on speaking or friendly terms, but if you scratch very deep, the differences get pretty big pretty quick.

    So to read criticism from someone that Catholics should love and care more for one another initially made me bristle. My wife and I have been (I think deliberately) stretched over a barrel by both ecclesial and secular authorities who wish to push their totalitarian agenda by destroying marriage & the family. Yes, there are other factors, but that’s a very big one. I’d love to show my neighbor at Church — and for that matter at work and elsewhere — greater charity by spending more quality time with them, but the truth is I don’t have time for my own kids or my wife, much less for extended family members, and much less for those I don’t know well. I’m determined my kids (and my wife & my soul) not be lost because of the increasingly anti-Christian nation and society I live in. They have to come first.

    All this said, I was single until I was 41. I know what it’s like to live alone, as a trad Catholic in a secular-liberal world, as I did it for over a decade — after I myself converted from Protestantism. It can be a cold, lonely world out there for a young, single Christian who wants to live their faith. I had friends at work, but few of them were Christians, much less Catholics — and many of those had families and so (like me today), didn’t have much time to spend. I’ve lived in both circumstances and neither is easy, though being singles was harder. I’m not sure what to say in response. Being a true friend to another takes time, and at least speaking for myself (and likely other trad Catholics with larger families), that’s in very short supply. I talk to people after Church, then have to leave after 30-60 min (at most).

    I think many people who are single or “at the margins” are overlooked victims of the liberal attack within the Church and within US society. Parents are likely to be busy anyway, but attacks on them (and their kids) force them spend yet more time caring for their kids because they often cannot trust those to whom they would otherwise delegate authority: schools, teachers and even priests or bishops in the Church. That means parents are nearly consumed with child-rearing, as they must do all (or at least a lot more) of it themselves.

    I will pray for you and those like you. I’ll talk when I can to those seemingly in greatest need. But I don’t know much else to do differently — but the souls of those in my charge are going to come first.

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    1. My thought about your comment is that you likely bristled at the admonition from Our Lord that we love one another because you, like me, have not experienced that love in a Catholic community either. It sounds to me like you are a loving and devoted father fighting a hard battle. I am sure you experience the natural love of your family and that is what keeps you fighting. But I suspect that you and I are on the same boat because otherwise, if you were experiencing the love of the brethren that Our Lord commands, you would not have bristled, but rather pitied me for not experiencing that same love in my community (and perhaps would have extended an invitation to come to your parish). We are on the same boat, brother – you with your family and me as a single woman. I appreciate your reflection on the difficulties of your single years. I would say that single people and those “on the margin” are our barometers for how well we are living out Our Lord’s command (and I include myself in all of my critiques). Anyway, I pray that your family will not have to fight these battles alone, but will have the support of fellow Catholics coming together to face the challenges before us. May the Lord bless you and keep you ever in His love.

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