My friend Fr. Raymond de Souza in Toronto writes in the National Post there:
I rather doubt Pope Benedict XVI follows [Charlie] Sheen, but the actor may recognize himself in what Benedict had to say in his latest book, Light of the World. Commenting on the terrible scourge of drugs and the sex trade, he said: “You see, man strives for eternal joy; he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal. But when there is no God, it is not granted to him and it cannot be. Then he himself must now create something that is fictitious, a false eternity.”
Man’s heart desires that which endures, but when he denies himself enduring things, he turns instead to more intense experiences of passing things. It is a “fictitious, false eternity” but man demands eternity, whether authentic or counterfeit. The heart of man desires true love, something good that will last. If he gives up on that, or hardens his heart against that possibility, he teaches himself to settle for counterfeit love and makes do with superficial things that pass away. Not every man ends up at the brothel door, but every man knows the steps in that direction.
Valentine’s Day is harmless enough — save for those single souls unkindly made to feel left out — but it is to true love what gold plating is to the real thing. It might look like it, and may serve to fool someone for a time, but it fades. The commercial message of Valentine’s Day is that indulgence is the path to love — flowers, chocolates, jewellery, extravagant meals. All of which may be enjoyed, but cannot be the path to love, for indulgence fundamentally turns in on the self. Sacrifice is the path to love, for it alone goes beyond the self to the service of the beloved. Sacrifice and service are the measure of love.
It is not only the men outside the brothel who are looking for God. So too the women inside, who desire that someone may come who might sacrifice, not his money, but himself, not to possess but to serve. Having given up on being served, they settle for services rendered.
The Christian wisdom of Chesterton and Benedict is inclined to see the possibility of hope at the brothel door. A belated discovery of an enduring, eternal love remains possible. And the Christian remembers that Jesus preached the Gospel amongst the prostitutes.
He may be among the highest paid on television, but he is the least of my brothers.
Evil flourishes where hearts harden. (Abby Johnson’s new book Unplanned underscores this, too.) Never give up on the most hardened. He may, in fact, be most in need of love and an entrée into God’s merciful hand.
Fr. Raymond’s piece is worth reading — it’s written with a little help from G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton, who, “would not give up on [Sheen], for there he stands, at the door knocking.”