Not Taught But Caught

(February 11, 2007)

Bottom line: Love - rooted in faith - is not so much taught as caught.

I’d like to begin with a Valentine story. Back in 1920 a man from Bavaria, Germany, placed this ad in the newspaper:

Middle-ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43, immaculate past, from the country, is looking for a good Catholic, pure girl who can cook well, tackle all household chores, with a talent for sewing and homemaking with a view to marriage as soon as possible. Fortune desirable but not a precondition.

A woman named Maria Peintner answered the ad. She was 36 years old, a trained cook and the illegitimate daughter of a baker. She did not have a fortune, but even so, they married four months later. In spite of their somewhat advanced years they had three children - two boys and a girl. The youngest child received the same name as his father: Joseph Ratzinger. He is better known today as Pope Benedict XVI.

I tell their story because this week we celebrate St. Valentine's Day. Joseph and Maria Ratzinger give a beautiful testimony to married love. Their love illustrates what we heard in today's Scripture readings: "Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord." If a person gets up into their mid-thirties and they have not found that special person, they can feel life has passed them by, maybe even that God has forgotten them. That was not the case with Joseph and Maria Ratzinger. From all we know, they were people of deep faith in God.* Because of their trust in God, they had an admirable marriage and deeply united family.

What is faith? Jesus gives a profound insight today. He says that those who experience hunger, poverty, sorrow - and rejection - are in fact blessed by God. Not that those conditions are good in themselves, but they can cause a person to turn to God, to recognize that he alone fills and comforts us. When we experience his care, his love, it leads to faith which is the true foundation for love.

It is significant that Pope Benedict wrote his first - and only encyclical - on love. He speaks about various types of love: love of country, love of friends, love between parents and children, love of neighbor and love of God. Out of all the various types of love, the pope says that one stands out: love between man and woman, where body and soul are inseparably joined. In this union, he says, "human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness." In the rest of the encyclical pope Benedict analyzes this love - and explains how a person can sustain it. The encyclical is well worth reading.

In the encyclical the pope gives a winsome presentation on the meaning of love. But in the end he admits that love is not so much a lesson to be learned as a mystery to live. He doesn’t use these words, but love - rooted in trust in the Lord - is not taught but caught. That was the case with how the pope first learned love from his parents. It is interesting that he did not know how they met until his pastoral visit to Bavaria. Prior to his visit, some industrious soul scoured old newspapers and discovered the ad his father has placed looking for that good Catholic girl who could cook well. Joseph and Maria Ratzinger did not talk to their children about the ins and outs of their relationship, but their children caught the meaning of love - love such as today's reading describe: like a tree planted by a stream, it quietly grows and bears great fruit.


*Their faith enabled them to see Nazism for what it was and to resist its idolatry and its absence of moral law.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Sixth Sunday, Year C):

2010: Trust
2007: Not Taught But Caught
2004: Invisible Cats
2001: Beatitudes, Miseries & The Priest
1998: Woe to You Rich

Wedding Homily

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Why Religion Matters Even More: the benefits of marriage - and how religious practice increases marital stability and satisfaction; Death of Bill Savard, Fr. Corapi Retreat)


Hopeful news from New York:

Last year, Spitzer endorsed the concept of tuition tax credits, and now as New York State Governor he is making good on his commitment. His budget proposal calls for a $1,000 tax break for families who elect to send their children to parochial schools. This is good news for Catholics and good news for everyone who is truly interested in academic excellence.

Pictures from 2007 March for Life

Catholicism for Everyone


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