By Zack Miklos
What does it mean to love? The summer heat gently rekindles these kinds of questions, placing cheery smiles on the faces of many college students. Finding the answers to these loaded questions can be difficult, as they can vary depending on what you read and who you talk to. Just as there are reliable and unreliable sources for advice, there are also reliable and unreliable ways to think about love. Some can leave you smiling, while others leave you upset and alone. University life, a substantial stepping stone towards complete independence, is a perfect place to discover what love truly is and with whom to best share it.
St. Teresa of Calcutta is one distinguished individual who is widely known for writing, speaking and living a life of love. She was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and was recently canonized by Pope Francis on Sept. 4. While it may be atypical to associate her reflections with the sizzle of college romantic experiences, I find them refreshing and surprisingly relevant.
She once spoke on the role giving plays in love, saying, “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” In other words, love involves limitless generosity. It is about the giving of yourself to help others. Romantic relationships, in particular, are about what you will do for someone else, not what he or she will do for you. A strong bond can form if generosity is humbly returned and the cycle can endlessly continue.
Generosity does not have to be expensive or elaborate, and neither does love. St. Teresa once said, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” In other words, love is about endurance, not speed. It is about building relationships, connecting with someone on a personal level and sincerely wanting the connection to continue, regardless of how meaningless it may be. It is not about one-night stands and quick hook-ups, but about getting to know someone and wanting to be with them longer. This may contradict the culture at many universities, but it is something that can help ensure a more pleasant life in the long term.
While loving, like St. Teresa suggests, may appear to be something fairly easy to carry out, the reality does not always sift out that way. According to Father James Martin, S.J., of America Magazine, St. Teresa “faced great spiritual darkness in her life” and may have suffered from depression. The takeaway of this is that great people can suffer too. At one point, St. Teresa highlighted the necessity of love in daily life, saying, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
Sadly, hunger and pain will always exist, but nothing will come close to how it feels to being unloved. It is important to reach out to those in need of emotional support and offer them in whatever capacity you can. Whether a romantic relationship, part of the religious life or some other vocation, helping to alleviate the potential emotional turmoil of your peers can change their lives forever.
I challenge you take the advice of St. Teresa to heart and apply it to your own life. Love genuinely, generously and with stamina. In her own words, “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”