FAITH MATTERS: Love is the greatest

It was Christmas 2021 that everyone was looking forward to. COVID had started to slow, holidays had been booked, but out of now where, Newcastle ended up in the thick of an outbreak.

The households which COVID did affect needed to change Christmas arrangements, postpone weddings for the second or third time and isolate! For some families the virus spread to other members, for others it was not the case. Despite the challenge the last two months, most families were still able to come together and experience the love that is felt during this special time of the year.

The summer holiday period is a time when families and friends spend time together. This time is spent in holiday mode not knowing what day of the week it is, trips away, beach days, late nights, fireworks and connecting with one another. This is a time for memory making, and for some, keeping a memory alive.

Over the summer holiday period we partook in the annual ritual of packing the car to head north for a camping trip. We have camped with a couple of families for many years, the whole experience strips you back to the bare necessities. Days are spent swimming, fishing, kayaking, cooking, reading and in union with family and friends, reminiscing of the past and sharing plans for the future. This is the time to pause from the business of life and really listen and be present to one another.

During this year’s camping trip, I read Trent Dalton’s book ‘Love Stories’. I was struck by the reason he wrote the book, as he received a typewriter that was owned by one of his friends’ mother, Kathleen.  At her funeral, the sky-blue Olivetti Studio 44 was presented to Trent as she wanted him to have it.

Trent took up the mission to create something that honoured the memory of Kathleen. He wanted to create something that was deep, loving, frank and heartfelt as Kathleen was all these things. She demonstrated a real strength when she wrote to a Catholic leader in the 1970’s on the same typewriter, railing against Cannon Law regarding the covering of women’s heads in Church. She felt it was what was in the heart, not the cloth on the head that counted. Katheen was a true neighbour to all, the relationships she developed lasted her lifetime. The greatest secret she passed on was to shut up and listen to others as this was a true demonstration of love.

Trent walked the streets for two months in Brisbane’s CBD and asked random strangers to share their love story. Then he sat with the sky-blue Olivetti Studio 44 on the corner of Adelaide and Albert streets, on the edge of King George Square with the sign ‘Sentimental writer collecting love stories. Do you have one to share?’ for two weeks. Trent took up  Kathleen’s wisdom and listened. The love stories that were shared bring hope during an ongoing and ever-changing frustrating pandemic. Some are heartbreaking, joyous, inspirational, tragic, funny just as life itself presents. The stories are the memories that touched and transformed hearts.

We are reminded of Christ at the last supper and his instructions to his dearest friends.

Do this in memory of me.

If we place our focus on the Gospels and the stories we read about Jesus, to do life in his memory, does not mean it is done in isolation, but rather in community forging good relationships based on love.

Do this in memory of me, means that we become Christ, we become love.

It was the love he demonstrated that inspired Paul when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians.

‘Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.’

‘…..there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.’

COVID has taught us that human connection is vital, while technology can still bring us together, it does not replace face to face contact and being present to each other.  Actions based on love can have a profound impact, lead to transformation, and stay with us in our memory. This is why families and friends continue to gather during holiday periods, because of the love they share of place, experience and of each other. We are called to listen to the other with loving and accepting ears, not to judge, but develop an understanding so love is all its forms can be revealed.

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