Tag Archives: love

Warming Hearts in the Family of the Church

family love

Pope Francis spoke recently on priestly formation. This is off-topic for this blog, but a lot of what he said has meaning for all of us in the Church. Pope Francis painted a picture of a seminary that has become a cold, loveless place. Instead, the Holy Father said, the task should be to “form hearts”. 

Hearts cannot be formed without love, without warmth, without family spirit. How important this is for the whole Church. At times, the Church – our parishes – can be cold places. Any place that is merely a service-provider will inevitably be cold. Only when a church is a place where people want to be, not to get something, but to be themselves and with others, will the heart of the parish be love, a place that can start “forming hearts”.

This Christmas, I spent quite a long time at home with my family. A lot of us were there for several days together, and it was an extremely joyful time. Long hours were spent in front of the fire, not doing very much, simply being together. There was lots of laughter, jokes about each of our own weirdnesses, funny games, endless chatting and sharing our thoughts, and love and forgiveness. I found myself asking, “Why isn’t the Church more like this?” It seems obvious – the Church is the “gathering together” of everyone into the Father’s house. It should be the place, par excellence, where we want to hang out, rejuvenate ourselves, before going back out into the mission. It should be the place where we joyfully spend time together, not out of duty, but because we love and energise each other. This seems to be a reality within new movements (e.g. Youth 2000, Communion & Liberation, Neo-Catechumenal Way) and in good university chaplaincies (I feel blessed that my own faith was nourished in a brilliant chaplaincy). Our joyful family life (where we are blessed to experience this) should be a reflection of the warmth and joy in the heart of the communion of the Church. But often this community in the Church is a rare exception rather than the rule.

Then I asked myself, “How can the Church be more like this?” Clearly, it is down to each of us. Pope Francis has been asking us endlessly to “warm hearts”, and there are a million ways we can each do this, according to our own charisms. One thing we can do is encourage “family spirit” especially among our peers in our parish communities. Make time to meet someone for a coffee if they are going through a hard time. Be interested in people’s lives, pray for their worries, go out of our way to tend to their concerns.

Above all, we need to care for our priests. I am sure crisis in the priesthood is down to loneliness. How can it be good if one of our “Fathers” spends most of his days alone? Who can exist without love, let alone give of themselves? (Blessed John Paul II said in Redemptor Hominis, 10, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”) Priests especially should be surrounded by love, drawn into our families, have a special place in our daily prayers. 

The renewal of the Church will come from “raising the spiritual temperature” of our parishes with acts of love. As we know, St John the Apostle repeated often, “Little children, love one another.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” (1 Jn 4:7-11)


Weddings, Relationships, Love, Teenagers

The past month has been Wedding Month for me: I feel like I know the Rite of Marriage by heart. My sister and a close friend have both got married, and both were incredibly emotional experiences for me. In both marriages, the couples had not lived together before getting married, and they were truly authentic and beautifully Catholic celebrations of the sacrament. It is such a joy to witness.

So, when my small group in the Confirmation programme started talking about how they couldn’t see why you wouldn’t have sex with your boyfriend if you were in love, I told them the story of my sister’s engagement and beautiful wedding. It is fantastic, and I thank God, that these girls, so early on, will discuss these issues so openly. What a gift! On the other hand, I can see they are pretty hardened already in their mentality and unwilling (so far) to open their minds to see it in a different way.

Last year, we decided that the area of relationships and chastity needed to be brought up earlier in the programme, since this is such a big area to evangelise in the lives of teenagers. So, we brought in a session on the dignity of the human person right at the start – session 2! And, I definitely think it was the right decision. But we have a looong way to go… Please say a prayer for these girls!

Here’s a video I came across recently which is a great contribution to the task of evangelisation in this area:


Vocation: what you do with your love

I once heard someone say that your vocation is ‘what you do with your love’. If we are trying to live out God’s will day by day, we’re all living our personal vocation right now, even if not yet in the vocation or state of life to which God has called us for our whole life. It is really interesting to look at your life and ask yourself: to whom or to what do I give my love – my time, energy, passion? What do the events of my life or how I use my time reveal?

When he came to this country nearly a year ago, Pope Benedict XVI said to young people: “I ask each of you first and foremost to look into your own heart, think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and also love it was meant to give, after all we were made for love” (18th Sept, 2010). For young people, the single life before marriage or priesthood or consecrated life should be a ‘school of love’, receiving the love of God into our hearts, knowing ourselves and finding our identity completely in Him, so that we can pour out our love into our vocation when that time comes.

A couple of weekends ago, I was at the first talk of the Invocation festival in Birmingham. Fr John Hemer was the speaker and he said, memorably, that the young person who spends their life partying is at least on one level following their desires – unlike the ‘couch potato’ who does not know what they desire anymore. At least the party animal is doing something with their energy and passion, albeit in a ‘disordered’ way: the couch potato however is doing nothing with their heart – neither giving or receiving love. This is for what we were made! Love, relationships, family. This plan for human life is written in the very heart of God himself.