For better or for worse

The importance of fidelity

I like to think that my dad and I both got married at the same age (27): he in 1991, and I on the 14th of September of last year. To be precise, in my case it was the day I took my first – but perpetual – vows: but to me my promise of fidelity based on an all-encompassing love was very much a parallel to the lifelong promises pronounced on a wedding day.

It wasn’t the first time the theme of fidelity had made itself felt strongly in my life. I remember all too well the day I told one of my seniors I would be leaving my medical training programme early so as to enter the Novitiate. With great benevolence, his words were, “If you were my son, I would bless you with both hands. But first, finish what you started.” His invitation to fidelity, to commitment to a path I had already undertaken, and – more importantly – the great kindness he showed me convinced me to stay on for another year, even though it was a painful decision. It turned out to be one of the years of greatest growth in my life.

That same man would, some years later, remind my brother – also a doctor – of the importance of the Hippocratic oath he had taken when about to confront the COVID-19 epidemic on the front lines: “When you took that oath, you promised to give it your all. Something like this may have happened yesterday, may have happened tomorrow, may have never happened. It happened today. Be faithful to your oath.”

The vocation to religious life and that of a medical professional may have some similarities which immediately stick out: holistic care for others, tireless work, touching deep wounds and bringing life to places of darkness. But the formal profession of fidelity which both involve is perhaps one similarity which often goes unnoticed.

It is this fidelity, inspired by vocation and rooted firmly in love, which I find myself reflecting on much these days.

The weeks of lock-down have cut me off from outside relations, particularly the children I used to teach and my fellow classmates at University: relations which were consolations in my ‘missions’ of catechism and philosophical studies respectively. Instead I found myself practically locked indoors, Zoom-fatigued, with a growing distaste for subjects which previously stimulated me, and wondering what I was doing here. When many of the daily joys of a life-choice are taken away from you, what happens then? Fidelity.

Love is a choice expressed in fidelity, is a way of life. Sentiments, pleasure, displeasure, pain, joy come and go, whether we want them to or not. But love is something much much deeper, much much rarer – but the good news is, we can choose it.

It is in moments like these that love is laid bare – it is only then that you remember why you chose to be here…not for this or that pleasure, or these or those relationships, or this or that career…no. The choice was for Someone. Is that Someone still there? Then so will I be.


Cover image: Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash

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