Mary Beth Bonacci, author and nationally recognized speaker on issues of sexuality and chastity, challenged the St. Thomas community to consider “Real Love in the College Years” on Feb. 15, 2000. She spoke to nearly 500 students and faculty. Here are excerpts from her presentation.
What does the word “love” mean, even? We use it a million different ways. I love my mom and dad. I also love pizza. Okay, we’re saying two very different things here.
What am I saying when I say I love my mom and dad? I’m saying I care about them. I’m saying I want what’s best for them. I’m saying if they had a problem I would be there for them. If they needed money I’d sell everything I had. At least I wouldn’t have any money but at least I’d feel better.
But what am I saying when I say I love pizza. Am I saying I care deeply about pizza? Am I saying I have a relationship with pizza? Am I saying that if pizza has a problem I will be there for pizza? No. All I’m saying is that I eat pizza until I don’t want to eat pizza anymore. Right?
I mean, you know, if I love pizza, I love to eat it and what if you’ve been eating pizza all day and you’re full. . . . and somebody comes up to you and says, “I got this really great pizza, it’s chocolate chip anchovy and you can’t get it just anywhere. Come on, have some pizza.” “No. I’m really full. I don’t want anymore pizza.”
“No, you’ve got to eat this pizza, because, you don’t understand, nobody else wants it. So if you don’t eat this pizza we’re going to have to put it in the fridge. That’s a scary place when the door closes. Have you ever tried to breathe in there and it’s dark. Do you care?”
“If nobody eats it in a few days it’s going to have to go to the dump. That’s no place for an innocent pizza.”
“I don’t care. If I don’t want the pizza then that’s it as far as my interest in the pizza goes. I don’t care what happens to it. You can feed it to the dog. You can stick it in the back of the fridge until it gets all green and moldy. I don’t care.”
So we’re talking about two very different definitions of the word love, aren’t we? There’s love as in, I love my parents. I care about them. I want what’s best for them. I’m willing to sacrifice for them. And the way I love pizza: which is, I don’t care what happens to it, all I care is that if it’s there for me, fine, otherwise, I don’t care.
How do you want someone to love you? The way I love my mom and dad? Or the way I love pizza?
Next time someone says, “I love you,” look very deeply into that person’s eyes and say, “Would that be pizza love or the real thing?” Pizza love is not real love at all. Real love means wanting what’s best for the other person. And if you want to understand this one level deeper, amazingly enough the best place to go is church teaching. I know you didn’t think there was anything interesting there but believe it or not I found some astonishing little gems.
For instance, Gaudium et spes, 24. Catholic Studies majors: I’m sure you’ve all emblazoned Gaudium et spes, 24 in your brains. Or maybe not. Okay now you will. The Vatican II document, Gaudium et spes, 24 says, “Man is the only creature created for his own sake and he finds himself only in the sincere gift of himself.”
Now, when you unpack that, there’s incredible, incredible beauty and depth and information that are actually relevant to us. Let’s break it down. “Man is the only creature created for his own sake. Now are we really clear that when we’re talking about man we’re talking about men and women. So, we’re all clear on that.”
“…the only creature created for his own sake.” What does that mean? It means that you were not created for your parent’s sake, so your parents could have a cute little baby. You were not created so your big brother or your big sister could have somebody to pick on. Or so that your little brother or sister would have somebody to annoy. You weren’t created so your best friend could have a best friend. You were created because God had the idea of you in his brain. And said, “It would be good for him to exist. It would be good for her to exist. I want her to have existence.”
The next time someone says, “I love you,” look very deeply into that person’s eyes and say, “would that be pizza love or the real thing?”
And God was madly, crazy, head over heels in love with you. From the first moment that that little sperm hit that little egg and there was a teeny tiny little you that nobody even knew about. God was crazy in love with you. You are his masterpiece. I always think of my friend Rich Mullins. Any of you know Rich Mullin’s music? His music is incredible. We were just getting to know each other, we were just getting to be friends. He was killed in a car accident two and a half years ago. In a concert just before his death he was talking about how his friends, who have little kids, would put their kid’s art on the refrigerator, like their two-year-olds and say, “Look, isn’t this great, isn’t this incredible, isn’t he talented?” And Rich would say, “It looks like Picasso. And I mean that in the worst possible way.” But the parent’s are saying, “No, really look, it’s brilliant. It shows such form and structure.”
And Rich was saying that’s what God does with us. He looks at us and says, “Look I made her. Look I made him. Look what he’s doing. Look at that.” He is crazy in love with you. And He has no selfish interest in you. Because God needs nothing from you. There is nothing you can do for God that He can’t do for Himself. So He doesn’t need you. It’s not that it’s not important for us to do things. But we’ll get to the reason for that later. God does not need you. God didn’t create you because He needed you. He created you because He loved you. And He wanted you to have life and He wanted good things for you. Mostly he wants the best thing for you. Which is to spend eternity with Him in heaven.
That’s what God wants for you. God wants love for you. God wants you always to be treated as good in your own sake. God never wants you to just be the road that someone else drives over to get what they want. You are good in the end. God does not love you more when you’re being good and less when you’re being bad. God does not love people who sin less than people who don’t sin. He’s madly, crazy, head over heels in love with every single person he ever creates, period.