by Dame Lyndsay Freer
The first words of Joy Cowley’s introduction to this little book exactly describe my reaction when asked to review it: “The head said no, while the heart said yes.” She had been asked to write spiritual reflections for gay men and women, and has done so in this book. But as she wrote it became, as she put it, a more holistic “spiritual reflection for all couples living in faith and love, and especially for those outside the expectations of tradition”.
Many of us have dear friends who are living in committed, gay relationships, and know the discrimination and pain they have suffered because, as the author puts it “the Church I love has been partly to blame”.
In his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis invites us to be less judgmental and more loving.
“The synod fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teaching on marriage.” (8:292)
And he quoted from Evangelii Gaudium; “It is true that at times we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” (8:310)
Made for Love is a series of reflections on the many aspects of love, sensitively and beautifully expressed. Joy Cowley writes of the pain and confusion, the honour and celebration of love, drawn from her understanding of the great, unconditional love of God for each one of us, a love which is the creative force of the universe, infinite and without
There are shades of that scriptural allegory on love, The Song of Songs, and of Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven (the Christ who lovingly and relentlessly pursues us) as well as Kahlil Gibran’s prose/poetry in The Prophet.
In some ways, this book has given me a greater appreciation of what love is, and helped me reflect more deeply on the words of Jesus; “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) I may not understand homosexual love, just as I wouldn’t understand parental love had I not been a parent, because we cannot walk in another’s shoes.
So I dare not presume to be judge and jury of those who are living with commitment in what might be called irregular relationships, when I see in those couple’s examples of loving kindness, sacrifice and generosity.
Joy Cowley makes an interesting point that often love becomes associated with individual need, so that it is easy to lose sight of what true, sacrificial love is. “To love fully is to be vulnerable,” she writes. “We relax the tight grip on our ego in a commitment to someone else, and we risk hurt, we risk loss. Sooner or later it will happen.”
Perhaps not to have experienced pain and loss can cause some of us to be less understanding and more legalistic in our attitudes towards the circumstances of others.
This book is delightfully illustrated with images from nature by artist/designer Miranda Brown.
Dame Lyndsay Freer is media and communications officer for Auckland diocese.