Mr. Knightley and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

I feel very ready to fall in love.  As a bonus, I’ve seen all of the movies, so I know exactly how it should happen.  My eyes are keenly on the look-out for anything that looks like what I think love is.  I’ve yet to find it, though.  Probably because my love will come disguised as something else, as something other than the period drama/romances I’ve steadily consumed over the past decade.

My housemates and I have watched Emma and I have essentially fallen in love with Mr. Knightley.  Of all of the male leads in Jane Austen’s novels, I believe he is my favorite.  Sensible and kind, he is persistent in loving Emma and seeking after her own good.  He is firm in his corrections of her behavior yet has a tender place in his heart for her.  He is everything a young man ought to be.  While not entirely, wildly consumed by his emotions for her, he admits in his proposal that if he loved her less he might be able to talk about it more.  I melt inside as I watch the relationship unfold.  His pure, disinterested love for her is arresting.  At points he is jealous of her attachments to others, but he always seeks after her best.  Faith isn’t mentioned much in his lifestyle, yet he embodies so many of the works of mercy every Christian ought.

I’m sold.  I’m in raptures about the fictional creation of Jane Austen’s mind.  He seems to be the perfect composite of all things good.  The only matter that is left unresolved is the simple thing of willing him into existence.

Despite the manifold attractions of Mr. Knightley, I have also recently fallen in love with another man.  However, this one is real although deceased.  Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati has been pulling at my heart lately.  This is largely because I’ve been reading a biography about him (written by his sister) and teaching a unit on him for a new class this semester.

So many things I find on Bl. Pier Giorgio trumpet him as the “ordinary Christian” and one who shows that all are called to holiness.  When I examine his life, however, I find much that seems beyond me, much that seems to be very extraordinary.  He is full of joy and vivacity but also contemplative and compassionate.  While born into a family of affluence and influence, he desires to give his money to the poor, to live his faith ardently, and to devote his short life to service.  Generosity overflows from his person as he gives his very coat and shoes to those who go without.  Wealth had no hold on him and the poor were not even aware that he was wealthy.  Thousands of people come out at his funeral, people that his family had no idea he helped.

There is so much about Bl. Pier Giorgio that I long to imitate.  I have felt a particular desire to imitate, to a degree, his great service to others.  Pier Giorgio was my age when he died.  It makes me wonder how I have used my time so poorly while he was spending with gusto every moment of his short life.  Of course, I am not called to be just like Pier Giorgio, but as a blessed in the Church, he is held out as an example of the lay faithful life.

This love I have for Bl. Pier Giorgio is more than simple admiration.  He is weedling his way into my heart, pointing out areas that need growth.  Talking or thinking about him fills me with a great joy.  I want to be like Bl. Pier Giorgio.  If I had lived during his time, I would have wanted to marry him.  As it is, I want him to be my particular friend.  I want him to be someone in Heaven who is interceding for me, petitioning Christ for the graces I need to live the Beatitudes radically.

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us.

True Romance

I am a romantic.  Secretly, yet not too secretly.  My students would probably be surprised, people who know me casually would probably be surprised, but in my heart of hearts I am a sappy romantic.  I enjoy romantic movies (this meaning North and South, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre (yes that last one is Gothic romantic, in my mind) not more modern romantic movies like the Titanic.).  Despite my “sensible” nature (in quotes because this is what I would prefer to think of myself, not what is necessarily true), I love the feeling in my stomach when I know the couple will end up together and that they will be madly in love. 

For example:
(Skip to 2:45)

That clip just fills my romantic heart with joy.  Laugh if you wish, reader, but I was made for a wildly romantic love.  And you were, too.  I just too often think only of Mr. Thornton as the lead character instead of Our Lord.  What a far more intense love Jesus has for me than any other man ever could.

Our Lord proves His love for me over and over again, even though it is not necessary.  My existence is proof of His enduring love but He desires to delight my heart.  A brief story to illustrate how He does so.

On Thursday evening I was planning to go to a Theology on Tap at a local ale house (sounds so much better than a bar, aye?).  Social outings are always a feat for me because it takes a great deal of personal convincing (as well as telling other people that I will be there so as to make it necessary for me to actually make an appearance) for me to arrive at anything beyond Mass after school.  Since I do not live in town, I need to stay at school for a couple extra hours if I go to any events in the evening.  It isn’t really that inconvenient, there is certainly enough work for me to do, it is just difficult when I sometimes feel like collapsing into a bed at 3:30 pm. 

Anyway…I was going to go to the Theology on Tap but I left school a bit late.  The event was to begin at 7 pm and I left only 10 minutes to get there.  I was tired, hungry, and running late.  Driving downtown I got mixed up about which street it was on and it was making me even later.  At about 7:10 I was pulling into the parking lot only to find it full.  So I drove out, down the street, and came back.  I was starting to convince myself to go home, eat, and sleep.  That sounded more appealing to me every second.  I began to plan what I would say the next day if someone asked me why I didn’t show up. 

Looping around the parking lot I still didn’t find any spots.  I decided to take one more turn about the lot.  “Lord, what do you want me to do?”  The tension was that I felt like I should go yet I wanted to just go home.  I saw a man was talking on a cell phone at the back of an apartment building.  Seeing me, he began to point.  I was confused.  Then I realized that the spot he was pointing to was for a business that was closed at this point in the evening.  I pulled into the spot, got out, and the man waved and smiled at me.  For a moment I thought he was one of the people that I would be meeting there, but I soon realized they were two separate buildings. 

Walking into the ale house I was laughing inside.  The Lord helped me find a spot.  More importantly, the Lord was able to quickly answer my prayer in a very tangible way.  I asked Him what I was to do and He had a man point to a parking spot for me.  It didn’t leave too much to wonder about.  The whole evening was a blessing.  Afraid that I would walk in late, I entered the establishment to find that many of the people were still getting their drinks.  When they began to move into another room for the talk, a couple of people waited for me to get my drink.  Everything was working perfectly.  The talk of the night was excellent and I was able to socialize afterwards. 

The Lord provided for me.  Driving home that night I was filled with thankfulness.  He knows what He is working with.  It is hard for me to break out of my shell but the Lord desires it of me.  Nevertheless, He helps do some of the breaking. 

The little gifts He offers to me are sometimes dismissed or received with a sense of entitlement.  While I build dreams of romantic proposals or fantastic encounters, He is offering to me His heart.  I acknowledge it briefly, perhaps, and then sit and wait impatiently for the day when I will receive the affections of some Prince Charming.  This is an exaggeration, but not as much as it should be.  I am still very much of the world.  Knowing that Christ alone can fill me, I still try to run after the fulfillment that society tries to offer to me. 

Sometimes it takes a random stranger pointing out a parking space at a bar for me to begin to think that the Lord is in love with me.  Am I still longing for marriage?  Yes.  Do I still hope for some romantic swept-off-my-feet love?  Of course.  Despite all that, my desire is to desire the Lord more and more and to realize that He alone can provide the true love that I so desperately need.

Movie Love

“I think I’m falling in love with you.”

That line from a movie should be captivating and romantic but at that specific point in the movie I found it utterly—belated and ridiculous.  So far the movie had been mindless albeit slightly different from other chick flicks that I’ve seen, but it came to a necessary aspect in nearly every modern romantic movie.  Boy and girl become very passionate and end up in bed together with no ring on their fingers to make this a marital embrace but rather an over-glorified way to use the other person.  In this particular movie, the guy and girl are in bed and as she is going to tell him something, he looks her in the eyes and huskily admits, “I think I’m falling in love with you.”

My response?  A few short disbelieving laughs and an overwhelming sense of sadness.  You think that you are falling in love with her?  Aren’t those words (or perhaps simply “I love you”) supposed to come before you say those words with the language of the body?  I think the effect is supposed to elicit a response of “Awwww!”  But instead it makes me realize how far we have fallen.  The pinnacle of expressing one’s love for the other person is not found in virtuously denying oneself for the good of the other but rather in letting passion consumed oneself.

The romantic movies that are produced by the mainstream media always leave me less than fulfilled.  The man could be strikingly handsome and the girl witty and smart yet as soon as they fall into the cliché that love = sex, I find myself saddened inside.  If this is what the media is hailing as natural and love, then I shouldn’t be surprised at the decay of the culture.  The dignity of the human person is not upheld as it should be.  When I see a romantic movie it would be nice if I didn’t have to say, “That was good.  Except for….”  Or to think that it would be exactly the love story I would want if only they had shown virtue and a desire for the good of the other person.  Instead I typically leave with this odd feeling that is half wistful and half disgusted. 

I am a romantic by nature–perhaps not discoverable exteriorly but definitely found within my heart.  I want a wonderful love story and a love that is unending.  Yet I do not find myself agreeing with the only romance Hollywood knows how to offer.  Rather I begin to feel that I must be one of a small contingent that has a radically different view of love.  A purer, deeper, truer but far less exalted type of love.  The modern day romantic “fairy tale” ending is ridiculously trite.  In fact, it would be far more innovative for Hollywood to begin to use the oft-forgotten tale of the man and woman who show their radical love for one another within the embrace of Holy Matrimony.

This weekend I found a song with which I have fallen in love.  Her voice is beautiful and the lyrics are true.  It leaves me with a desire to be married yet with none of the bad aftertaste found in the typical mainstream music and society.  Relish this piece of true beauty!

While writing this I also thought of how if we want to transform the media and the culture, we must be willing to support places that are striving to do just that.  I want to see a change in what is being offered in the culture but if I do not support them, how are they to succeed?  So just when I needed it, I received an invitation to support a movie that speaks of the dignity of the human person.  I accepted the invitation and I would like to extend it to you.  While it isn’t speaking of the human sexuality of the person being trampled upon, it nevertheless is speaking about the inherent dignity of each individual regardless of the context of the situation.  Please support them in prayer and money and pass it along to your friends and family.  If we want to see this culture change, it will be through a group effort.  And it will require sacrifice.

P.S. God is ridiculously and madly in love with you.  He is pouring His mercy out upon you but He needs you to accept this mercy and glory in it.  This unfathomable love doesn’t really make sense–but that is probably why it is called “Divine Mercy.”  No mere human person is capable of that kind of love and mercy.  But glory to God we have a God who not only provides for the weak and the lowly (i.e. you and me) but loves to do that. 

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.