Fr Charbel continues his catechesis on the sacrament of marriage, this time looking at conjugal love in its various dimensions.

What is love?

By love we often mean a feeling of attraction – intensely felt and sometimes idealized into romance. You feel that the person you love is your all, and even if the whole world were to crumble down, it would not distract you from him or her. True love is not just this; it is much more than this. Feelings are fleeting, love endures.

The word love is singularly worn out. ‘I love this movie’, ‘I love chocolate’, ‘I love God’, ‘I love my friend’, ‘I love my child’, ‘I love my mother’, the list is endless. What love are we speaking about? We could quote endlessly philosophers, poets, novelists and theologians. But it would boil down to the one question: Do I love for the sake of the one I love, or for my own sake? I do not love sweets for their own sake but for eating them. I love my friend for himself – meaning I search for that which is good for him, as if it were my own good. We see here two great orientations of love, but these take so many different shapes.

The point is to realize that love is not only about the emotion, or the passion that we feel. Passion and emotion are not bad per se, they are just not enough. It is more deeply about recognizing the goodness of someone, touching somehow the core of the person and choosing that person not as a means for me to reach whatever goal I have set up for myself, but choosing that person for his or her own sake. There is a gift of self in that choice which implies the perception that the one I choose is worthy of that gift. This choice has to be mutual for love to blossom in a relationship – a real sharing which can take the form of friendship, conjugal love, brotherly love, love between parents and children…

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Fr Charbel, originally from France and from the community of St John, is currently living in Pondicherry, India. He goes around preaching retreats and actively supporting youth and young families, especially with marriage issues and discerning vocation. He is currently the Chaplain for JY Tamilnadu.