“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing there’s just too little of …”
By Fr. Alan Hartway
The verse above is from the 1965 hit by Jackie deShannon. The song is actually a prayer addressed to the Lord when the full lyrics are read. The need for love is true more than ever in our world today. But then people of almost every time and place have felt that this is true for them. It was certainly true in the era of St. Gaspar del Bufalo; Europe was torn apart by wars, revolutions, famines, poverty. Families were shattered by the coming industrial revolution and the great migration to cities.
St. Gaspar’s solution was the formation of mission houses where the bond of charity was lived and practiced among the members in order to make the apostolate more effective. In his Circular Letters to the whole community between 1826 and 1837 he uses passages from the Song of Songs, the great mystical love poem in the Hebrew Testament, to promote his point about the bond of charity and community life. He knew that his world needed love, sweet love more than anything. People had experienced enough of violence and chaos in their lives.
So, too, in our own time, we see the violence and hear the hatred every day, so much so that this accumulation tends to deaden and numb us, and to this extent that our world makes love even more difficult. One of the points of this ancient poet is to restore us to the sensuality of the world by heaping up all kinds of images of nature. This return to the natural world represents our deepest yearnings for the Garden of Eden, where love, sweet love, ruled everything. This is our prayer.
We will be exploring these themes, images and ideas during the retreat “St. Gaspar and the Song of Songs: Communion and Community“ the weekend of Oct. 26-27. Learn more about the retreat and reserve your space here.
On this weekend retreat for lovers, we will explore St. Gaspar’s use of these mystical texts and imagine how we might apply these truths about love to our own time and to our own community. Are you yearning for authentic love? Are you in a committed relationship? Do you yearn for community? Then this may be the retreat for you.
Fr. Alan Hartway has been a Missionary of the Precious Blood since 1974 and pastor of Guardian Angels, Mead, Colorado since 2007. He served on the faculty at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, for 16 years.