What Is Love?

Well over 30 years ago, when I was a Sophomore at Georgetown University, a group of us gathered to explore ways we could deepen our commitment to our faith outside of weekly Mass attendance. We called our group “Beyond Dahlgren,” Dahlgren Chapel being the university’s main worship space.

We gathered for prayer and fellowship and at least one retreat over the next few years. Our sponsor/mentor was a young Jesuit named Father Bill Watson, and at some point he started bringing his friend Father Robert Spitzer to our gatherings.

Father Spitzer (who at the time preferred to be called just “Spitzer”) taught me metaphysics, lived in our dorm, and eventually officiated at our marriage and baptized our first child.

He was (and is) brilliant and enthusiastic, and I have never forgotten some of the wisdom he imparted in our wedding homily.

Father Spitzer continues to impart wisdom about love today. I consider it one of those “Holy Spirit moments” that I was invited to watch and write about his recent video on understanding love. Along with explaining how the Christian view of love differs from earlier understandings and how transformative it has been over the centuries, Father makes a plea for all Catholics to counteract our culture’s destructive ideas by challenging common conceptions of love.

“Being nice is not love,” Father reminds us. Rather, love is a self-gift for the good of the Other–the WHOLE person, eternally and without expectation. It’s not giving someone whatever they want, whenever they want it, when it is not good for the whole person in the long term.

While the Christian agape proclaimed by Jesus transformed the world, leading to the founding of Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic public welfare organizations, Father explains that our culture’s redefinition of love has led to depression, anxiety, familial tensions, substance abuse, and suicide.

Father gives an impassioned explanation of the “intrinsic, unreserved value of every human life,” which informs all Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of and care for life from conception to natural death. Watching this video energized me to continue doing what I can to “re-educate our culture” at home, in my social circles, and through my writing.

This post was inspired by a recent talk on Understanding Love by Father Robert Spitzer of Healing the Culture.  Healing the Culture is an international leader in pro-life advocacy, delivering respect life education to millions of people by advancing universal principles of logic, ethics, and justice.  Through their online resources, K-12 curricula, leadership training programs, and media productions, Healing the Culture has helped countless individuals reject abortion and euthanasia and become effective pro-life advocates.

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