CNS PHOTO | KAREN CALLAWAY
People gather to talk about media and communication during the Focolare Expo in Chicago April 27. The Catholic lay movement aims to heighten world unity through the witness of Christian love and holiness in families and small communities.
Relationships in every corner of society could be transformed by putting into practice the Art of Loving.
Indeed, humanity itself could be renewed if people learned to love everyone, love the other person as yourself, be the first to love, share the other person's joys and sorrows, and forgive those who have hurt you.
The Art of Loving was the focus of an inspiring conference put on by the Focolare movement that three of us from the Edmonton Archdiocese attended in Chicago.
This way of loving, based on Jesus' teaching and example, was originally formulated by Chiara Lubich, the founder of Focolare.
It is a concrete way to evangelize, to make the Gospel "incarnate," something much needed in today's world. Each of us can contribute with the help of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus says our Father in heaven will give us if we ask.
Deacon Ken Noster, my wife Maggie and I were among 450 people from various professions who attended the Expo 2013, April 26 to 28.
A number of people shared experiences at the Expo which illustrated how to put the theory about love into action.
The business and economy segment included sharing by an investment manager, the owner of a small company and a professor who described an economy of communion.
The importance of listening to customers and co-workers was emphasized, as well as providing staff with more positive feedback than criticism. Loving "everyone" includes loving one's competitors - for example by sharing resumes of job applicants that one is unable to hire oneself.
In the segment of the conference focused on education, a game involving a "cube of love," featuring an aspect of the art of loving on each side, has helped improve relationships among students in lower grade classrooms.
Also shared was how the art of loving can help overcome all kinds of power struggles in schools, move to a healthier community and help students develop values.
Other themes included the need for administrators to be tactful with staff, and creating a family environment especially for students who come from unhealthy family backgrounds.
In the conference's segment on media, a news reporter highlighted how loving includes becoming well informed, and reporting accurately and fairly. Persons matter more than the medium.
Today, communicating by email often aggravates problems. It can, however, be used to build relationships by considering who is receiving the email and by being careful not to respond impulsively.
Participants in the law and ethics section considered how to move from an adversarial system to a more holistic approach while maintaining personal, professional and ethical integrity.
Among other suggestions, a judge described a program he was involved with that helped defendants with mental health issues repair their lives.
Related to government and civic engagement, two people involved in different political parties shared how to overcome polarized situations.
They stressed the importance of listening deeply, trying to understand, rather than demonize, each other, and finding common ground amidst disagreement.
In sessions on the arts and culture, an architect shared a long-term challenging experience, noting that the call to love never ends. A dancer from Brazil performed a beautiful dance. She spoke of listening to the artist within – the more one loves, the more beautiful the dance.
One theme concerning health underlined that we all are responsible to change habits for the health of both people and the environment. Related to recreation, participants who decided to change a lopsided baseball game into a clinic in which the better players taught the others skills, became more fun for everyone.
Experiences were also shared of inter-religious dialogue that was not only academic but included a dialogue of life. For example, a young Christian woman and a young Muslim woman became friends on a trip.
Later, when the Christian had to move out of her apartment due to a fire the Muslim took her in until she was able to move back. Their friendship led them to share more about and to understand better their respective faiths.
This conference demonstrated that each of us can make a difference in our field of endeavour. By taking the initiative in loving, the change for which we hope can begin with us.
For photos of Expo 2013 and videos of plenary sessions see: www.expo2013.us.
(Dr. Paul Flaman teaches at St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta.)