What is Love? | Fr. Dan Pattee, TOR | CWR Blog
The question that has guided Church discussions for decades will likely guide discussions at the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family
As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family opens on Sunday in Rome, the question, “What is Love?” will likely guide many of the discussions. This should be expected since this question has guided Church discussions for decades—taking on new salience with the release of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae.
It is a question that has not only concerned the Church. The popular culture is replete with references to the question of defining love. From rock, to hip hop to country music, the perennial theme of much of the music focuses on our longing and yearning for love—and our inability to find it. In 1993, the rock band, Foreigner, released the hit song, “I Want to Know What Love is.” And, three decades before that, Mick Jagger’s Rolling Stones complained about finding "no satisfaction"—despite access to a steady supply of sex, drugs, and money. Whatever love is, the purveyors of popular culture appear unable to have found it since their lyrics betray a level of unrest and sometimes violence that is uncharacteristic of genuine love.
The Papal Magisterium has been passionately pursuing an answer to this question—beginning with Pope Paul VI’s teaching that the procreative and unitive dimensions of human sexuality may not be separated (1968). This teaching was followed by Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body—with his 129 addresses from September, 1979 to November, 1984. It continued through Christmas, 2005 with Deus Caritas Est, written by Pope Benedict XVI.
St. John the Evangelist, in his first letter, states simply that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Is it possible that so many cannot “find satisfaction” simply because they have not yet known God? St. Augustine suggested as much when he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (cf. Confessions, Bk. I CSEL 33:1-5)
But, this would be no less true for Catholic Christians and those Christians within other denominations: what is love?