we looked at how we really have no idea what love is and how inefficient our language is to describe this amazing thing (and command) that we call “love”. We came up with seven qualities of love or love types:
1. Agape (love of God or God’s love)
2. Philial (fraternal love; could be split into brotherly and sisterly)
Each of these types or qualities of love inform the way we love people. Let me explain it differently.
Love determines your relationship
When I was in Theatre school we learned that all good drama is about relationship (well, all good drama is about conflict, but in very good drama, conflict is always relational – but that’s for another day). Every time we worked on a scene we had to figure out our “relationship” with the other characters. These relationships were always familial. So, even if the two characters in the scene are friends, the relationship is either fraternal (she’s like my sister) or paternal (he’s like my dad), etc. Every time we worked on a scene we also had to figure out what we needed from that person, and it was usually something we were not getting (therefore the conflict). Undoubtedly all the good “needs” had to do with love: “I need her to love me this way,” or “if he loved me he would do this,” etc.
There is some truth to this that can be transferred to real life: Every time we are in a relationship (and we are in relationship with everyone we come into contact with), it involves some type or types of love.
If I need someone to protect me, then I need a fatherly figure (or a God figure). If I need someone to nurture me, then I need a motherly figure. If I need someone to value me as a friend and be loyal to me, then I need a brother/sister figure. If I need someone I can boss around then I need a younger brother figure. So every human relationship can be brought back to the basic family relationships.
The reverse is also true: Knowing what type of love you have for someone can help you identify the relationship: The love I have for my sister is mostly fraternal love. Sometimes, however it may be a little paternal; sometimes it may even be a bit maternal. It may even be agape. It is never romantic or sexual. The love I have for my children is mostly paternal. Sometimes it is maternal. Sometimes it is fraternal. It always has some agape love.
You can actually chart this. It can even help you find a spouse: The love I have for my wife is very high in all categories. That’s how I know she’s my wife. You can determine whether you should marry someone or not based on how high each of these seven types or qualities of love are for that person. If it is high on all of them, then I’d say that’s a good bet that your love for that person is as close to TOTAL as it can be (refer to my post on Deacon-structing Marriage: Total Love
Now, you may be able to come up with other types of love: things like lust, affection, companion love, puppy love, infatuation. These, I think, are either part of the seven or not love at all. I've come up with these categories based on the basic premise that love has something to do with having a relationship with another person. I am not talking about loving your house or ice cream; I am not talking about loving yourself (but we will talk about that later).
All these however, sound very much like something we feel. But Jesus said that we must love. Come back next time
and find out how we can be commanded to love if love is a feeling.
Participants at the Renewal of the Spirit meeting in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican July 3, 2015. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: