VATICAN CITY - In the humble act of washing his disciples' feet, Jesus is showing all Christians how he wants them to serve others with love, Pope Francis said.

Published in Vatican

On Christmas day a film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s book Les Miserables made its debut in theatres. Though Hugo had a less than perfectly benign view of the Catholic Church, his masterpiece is, from beginning to end, conditioned by a profoundly Christian worldview. It is most important that, amidst all of the “Les Miz” hoopla, the spiritual heart of Hugo’s narrative not be lost.

Published in Movie News

VATICAN CITY - Advent's liturgical preparation for Christmas calls Christians to renew their faith in the reality of God's great love and to make a commitment to bringing his love to the world today, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Published in International

Love is, quite literally, moving to reality TV next April. A new show, Love is Moving, born out of a Toronto initiative known as the Love Movement is hoping to bring viewers to a fuller understanding of this familiar, fuzzy feeling.

Published in Youth Speak News
November 9, 2012

Real to reality TV love

“Please come to the altar to renew your vows with your wedding rings,” said our parish priest.

My parents looked at each other, and then to the rest of our extended family, with a mix of horror and amusement. It was their 20th wedding anniversary ceremony, and they forgot to bring their wedding rings.

In a flash, my aunt found an impromptu ring to fit my dad’s pinky finger, while I handed my mom my diamond gold ring. And like two teenagers up to no good, my mom and dad scurried up to the front of the church, laughing at the situation as they joined other couples from our parish.

Some of the couples celebrated their 10th anniversary, while one couple celebrated their 80th. The renewal of the vows ceremony was simple and beautiful. The couples posed for pictures and then celebrated with a delightful potluck lunch of sandwiches, a delicious wedding sheet cake and other desserts.

This heart-warming image is a stark contrast to the very popular world of reality TV weddings. The bride spends hours at a designer store trying to find the perfect princess dress for $10,000. This is followed by a trip to Cartier for the most ostentatious necklace to match the bedazzled 24-karat engagement ring. The bride and groom argue over the wedding cake, but the bride chooses the most lavish one. Then scenes of the reception hall filled with ice sculptures and martini bars transition back and forth with that of dancing guests. For the grand finale, a dollar sign with six or seven figures usually pops up. The unspoken rule: the higher the price tag, the more successful the wedding.

I learned more about celebrating love in the span of a two-hour renewal ceremony than the countless hours I have spent guiltily watching reality wedding shows. My mom glowed through the entire renewal ceremony, despite forgetting her wedding band. This completely contrasted with a reality TV bride who refused to walk into the church for two hours because the florist sent the wrong bouquet.

I love waking up in the morning and finding my parents sitting at the breakfast table casually talking and laughing. When they have an argument, they are eventually willing to forgive one another. Even with hectic schedules, they attend Mass every Sunday to celebrate and reflect on the life they share together.

Marriage is not perfect and it is definitely not simple. But they are committed to each other and to the vows they shared in front of God and their family 20 years ago. And their wedding cost only a fraction of the average reality TV wedding.

My mom can’t recall the location of her wedding dress. My dad’s wedding ring no longer fits. But the night my mom’s car had a flat tire in the pouring rain during Hurricane Sandy, my dad immediately stopped cooking dinner and drove to the rescue. He gave her a hand to hold, an umbrella to shield her from the storm and piece of mind that she would never be alone through any test God might send their way. 

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

My wife and I were at a wonderful wedding on the Labour Day weekend.

The weather was superb. The setting in Muskoka was spectacular. The love emanating around the happy couple was undeniable. And the sermon during the ceremony on the shores of Lake Rosseau was thought-provoking. So much so, that I am still thinking about it.

Maybe I am thinking about it because we’re celebrating an anniversary on Sept. 24. It is our 24th anniversary: 24 on 24. How special is that for a red-blooded Canadian guy? Women may expect jewelry or other trinkets on milestone anniversaries like five, 10 or 20 years, but celebrating your two-four on the two-four? (I digress, even though the perfect gift from her would be a lot less expensive than most of the anniversary gifts I’ve bought her over the years and it comes in bottles or cans.)

But getting back to the wedding, it involved the daughter of two very close friends and it was the first wedding we’ve attended of friends’ children. So, we’ve officially moved into the next generation: the “parents’ generation.” Age certainly does creep up on you and years meander past.

The pastor who delivered the sermon is the bride’s grandfather. How cool is that having your grandpa take you from his lap not that long ago to presiding over your wedding?

So, of course, an emotional sap like me was set up for a head-spinning afternoon right from the get go.

The pastor spoke about the word love and that in English we use it so many different ways, such as “I love you” or “I love ice cream” or “I love that car.” Love is such a complicated word in English, he said, because it means different things. One does not love ice cream the same way one loves her children, or one does not love a car the same way one loves his wife. (Well, if he does, you know such a marriage is doomed.)

But the Greeks, he said, figured it out when it comes to love. The Greek language uses different words for love depending on which type of love.

Eros, or the more modern erotas, is a love of passion, romantic love. However, eros does not necessarily have to be sexual. (Plato redefined the word and that’s where “Platonic friendship” comes from.) But it is a very deep sense of love between humans.

Then there is philia, which applies to friendship, family, community. Philia is about kinship and camaraderie. Hence, Philadelphia (from Greek words) is called the city of brotherly love, even if it doesn’t feel that way at sporting events.

The third Greek love word is agape, which is used 250 times in the New Testament. Agape is love which is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself. As John writes in his Gospel: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God does not merely love; He is love itself. Everything God does flows from His love.

As I sat there at this wedding, listening and thinking, it dawned on me that God’s love is not sappy or sentimental, even if I am sappy and sentimental. It is something so much deeper.

We’ve all been to weddings with sermons like this, but this one really stuck with me. Perhaps it was because it was my friend’s dad talking, maybe it was because our anniversary was coming up, or maybe it was because I had a life-threatening scare recently. Whatever the reason, I thanked God for the love I have in my life and remembered a story, often attributed to Winston Churchill, although I am not sure it was he who came up with it originally. A man was asked on his death bed whom would he choose to come back as if given the chance to return to Earth. He answered quickly and unequivocally: “As my wife’s second husband.”

Eros and philia may be reasons he chose that response, but surely agape played a role.

(Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont., and can be reached at bob@abc2.ca.)

Published in Robert Brehl
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