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Falling in Love With Christ View Comments
By Ronald D. Witherup

Falling in love is one of the most unsettling, mind-blowing, risky experiences in life. A young man once described to me his life-changing encounter with his future wife. He was simply bowled over. It was not only her good looks and a certain mysterious quality to her personality, but her entire demeanor attracted him. The way she talked, the way she walked, the way she smiled and laughed—all these and more convinced him she was “the woman of his dreams.”

Alas, he found out he had to work hard to get her to feel the same way about him! It took time and patience. But throughout the long courtship and engagement, his intuitions were confirmed. This was not infatuation. It was love. It was worth the risk, and it changed his whole life.

Perhaps this experience won’t speak to everyone, but most people do fall in love at one time or another. By way of analogy, I suggest that falling in love is a good way to describe the apostle Paul’s experience of faith.

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Ronald D. Witherup, SS, is superior general of the Sulpician Fathers and lives in Paris, France. He has authored many books and articles on Scripture, includingA Retreat with Paul the Apostle (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and, earlier this year, Gold Tested in Fire: A New Pentecost for the Catholic Priesthood (Paulist Press).

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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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