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Love. Of all the virtues that have been passed on to us through the ages, from the great poets to the saints and scholars, throughout history and literature, love is the one virtue that we as a society cannot live without.
The ability to love well and to love wisely is the most important trait that parents can pass on to their children. As children grow, the longing to share this love as well as receive it will remain strong throughout their lives.
Bestselling author Andrew M. Greeley and his sister, Dr. Mary G. Durkin have complied a beautiful and inspiring anthology that will help us comprehend this the most important of virtues and also help us express and understand what it means to love, and how to love wisely. The Book of Love is a perfect gift for a parent to give to a child, for relatives or friends to share, or for those who are coming to know this virtue in all its glory. People of all nations, creeds, colors, and denominations will appreciate this treasury of essays, poems, stories, and songs reflecting the one human need that has remained constant: Love.
It has been written about in the Bible, and it was passed down orally in myth and legend. It was discussed by the Chinese philosopher Confucius and in the Koran, and it inspired great works of literature and the pages of popular fiction. The Book of Love is a testament to the enduring nature of our own good, a good expressed through the human bond. In the tradition of William J. Bennett's The Book of Virtue, The Book of Love is a collection to be treasured, and shared, but most of all, it will guide us to express and to pass on the greatest of life's virtues: Love.
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Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.
Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.
Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.
Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.
Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.
Mary G. Durkin has been writing lecturing, teaching, running workshops, and participating in symposia since 1960. A pastoral theologian, she has taught university courses on marriage and family. She authored books on women, family, marriage, and sexuality and has participated on panels with other experts in these areas both in the United States and in Europe. She resides in a Chicago suburb. She is the mother of several children and fifteen grandchildren.
A Many-Splendored Thing
To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all directions.
I do love I know not what;
Sometimes this and sometimes that.
There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions.
François de la Rochefoucauld
Love, it is said, is a many-splendored thing. The various experiences of love, as well as the effects of each experience and the interplay between them, give love its claim to splendor.
There are a variety of loves, but they all have the same spirit. The selections in this chapter suggest that this spirit is the generic ingredient in every type of love. Love’s splendor is most obvious in its effects, in the way it moves us out of our narrowness to another level of existence.
Love, like the stories, poetry, and songs that proclaim its joy and its sorrows, does not lend itself to rational, scientific analysis. Why do two people fall in love? Why is it that a beautiful sunset can dispel the frustration of a rush-hour driver headed home after a busy day? Why does a teenage boy, given to monosyllabic answers and careless dress, suddenly become concerned about his appearance and sound a bit more civilized after a certain young woman smiles at him? Why is it that the birth of a grandchild turns staid, mature adults into euphoric grandparents? Why is it that when we are loved we begin to open ourselves to heretofore-undreamed-of adventures? Why do memories of certain places stir glad feelings? Why does the concern of a friend during a time of trial lighten our burden? Why do all these things happen if not because just even a hint of love arms us against our need always to be on guard, fearful of a loss of self.
True love, no matter what its focus, entices our spirits to move out of the constricted confines of self. It impels us to sing a song that encompasses not only our own souls but also the soul of the other, be it a spouse, a child, a neighbor, our community, our neighborhood, the stranger, all humanity, the universe, and beyond. The narrow circle widens each time we feel we are loved as well as each time we allow ourselves to love something or someone.
At times the term love is misapplied. People are said to love everything from fame, fortune, power, and prestige to the latest fashion, movie, television show, rock star, or novel. These are false loves when they are based in a compulsion or a sense of greed. Compulsion and greed focus our energies on the acquisition of things as a means of satisfying the ego. We are shaped by what we love, even when these are false loves. The circle narrows. The spirit withers.
The dichotomy between our expressed desire to love and be loved and our actions to protect us from what we imagine to be a loss of self sets up obstacles to our participation in the feast of love. Yet, when properly nourished, our ability to love grows. We work our way up to participation in the feast of love when we explore the various love challenges and love opportunities available to us. The spirit thrives.
When the spirit thrives, both individuals and communities are open to the splendor of the varieties of loves. When we are mindful of love’s possibilities, good things happen. We have a hint of what it means to be real.
* * *
We seek to understand what it means to love, thinking that once we have the wisdom we will conquer all life’s obstacles. Unfortunately, like the he-mouse, we want things our way. Our self-centered desires often make it difficult, if not impossible, to recognize love when it is waiting for us to embrace it.
* * *
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass’d in music out of sight.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
* * *
The He-Mouse and the She-Mouse
This tale appears in Indian, classical, midrashic, and medieval fable literatures, as well as in modern oral tradition.
* * *
Thus said a mouse: “What good is a male without the female who is his wife? I have seen every kind of thing that is alive, yet among all these I have found none that is fit to be my wife.” And he did greatly desire to seek for himself a wife most fair, and he could find none to suit his thought and aim except the sun, who was fair beyond all compare. So he said: “If all who dwell on earth are in darkness when she is not there, the good sun brings healing with her when she comes.” And when the sun began shining again, she found much favor in his eyes, and he said to her: “I love you with an everlasting love, therefore I beg you to come down from above and I shall pay your bridal price and wed you in a trice.” And the sun answered with guile and deceit: “Surely it would not be meet to take the light which grew dark yesterday and shines again today, and then sets in the evening. As soon as you look at it, it will pass away and clouds can conceal it anyway, and so I am but a servant to the cloud for whenever it desires I am clad in darkness. But if you should offer your pleas to the cloud, I am sure that it will not turn you away.”
The mouse thought it over and hastened away to seek the cloud and said to her: “Indeed, I have toiled and found, O cloud most fair and fine, and by counsel of the sun I wish to make you mine, and I shall never forsake you.” But the cloud answered and said: “He who is high above the high has placed me in the hands of the wind which bears me wherever it finds to be best, whether north or south or east or west. With might and main it carries me away. Now if a wife like me you desire, you will be wandering to and fro on earth until you tire. Forsake the maid and the lady take, for the wind can make me or she can break. Go to the wind and dwell with her, entice her if you can.”
So the mouse went away to the wind and found her in a desolate land and to her he did say: “Have no fear. But haste away to the hills with me for of all the females I did see in these times and our present age you are the best and most fit for me, so you be mine and I shall be yours.” But the wind answered: “Why do you come to take me? You do not know how abject I be for I have no strength or power to blow down a wall at any hour, whether of stone or earth it be. I am not strong at all, you see, when a wall is stronger than me. So if it should seem fit to you and you can persuade her to be faithful and true, let her be your citadel and stay.”
So he went to the wall and this did say: “Listen to me, for I would have you know the counsel of the sun and the cloud and the wind and they advise that I should ask you to be sweet and kind to me, so that we may wed, you see.” But the wall answered in rage and wrath: “They sent you to me to display my shame and reproach. You have come to remind me that they are all of them free to rise up and go down while my stone and wall cannot move at all, and I have neither strength nor power and any mouse or worm can make me bare and dig into my base and make themselves a ladder and a stair. Though I may be an upthrust wall, they injure me with their mouths and feet as though I had no strength at all, and the mice come here with all of their kin and dwell in me, the mothers and their litters. And they have many a hundred nests, and I cannot stand against them at the best. And do you desire a wife like me?”
So when the mouse saw that his hopes were in vain, he took a wife of his own kith and kin who had been born not far away, and she became his helpmate on that day.
from Mimekor Yisrael: Selected Classical Jewish Folktales
* * *
If we are willing to risk love, to let love arm us, we will eventually find the answer to the ultimate questions.
* * *
To love “very much” is to love poorly: one loves--that is all--it cannot be modified or completed without being nullified. It is a short word, but it contains all: it means the body, the soul, the life, the entire being. We feel it as we feel the warmth of the blood, we breathe it as we breathe the air, we carry it in ourselves as we carry our thoughts. Nothing more exists for us. It is not a word; it is an inexpressible state indicated by four letters.
Guy De Maupassant
* * *
From the soul’s proper loneliness love and affection seem
part substance and part dream
held in the mouth in the same way the snake carries its eggs
if gripped too hard they break,
leaving a few grains of dust
and a heart crippled by its weight of lust.
* * *
Even though love often disappoints us from every direction, in the end love will triumph.
* * *
He drew a circle that shut me out--
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
* * *
A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row
Plain concrete, wash basins--an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.
This is what love does to things: the Rialto Bridge,
The main gate that was bent by a heavy lorry,
The seat at the back of a shed that was a suntrap.
Naming these thin...
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