“It’s All About Agape:” Father Himes on Family

Hillside Café was filled to capacity November 4, 2014 as students eagerly waited to hear from Father Michael Himes. Fr. Himes was the guest of honor for the monthly event, Agape Latte.

Agape Latte is hosted on the first Tuesday of every month by the C21 Center. Agape Latte has featured popular faculty members like Professor Kronin, Coach Addazio and Father Jeremy Clark, S.J. The talks focus on faith and discernment, particularly in the personal lives of the presenters. Each talk has a distinctly different focus and offers students time for reflection.

Coutesy of the C21 Center

Image courtesy of C21 Center / Facebook

Most recently, the founders of TheJesuitPost.org came to Boston College to discuss risk-taking and the value in following a call to passion.

This past Tuesday had all the similar ingredients for a successful Agape Latte: excited students, a comfortable atmosphere and free coffee and desserts. There were even representatives from Canisius College, Manhattan College and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine who plan to incorporate the program into their own schools.

Finally, Fr. Himes sat down and after a warm introduction by John Walsh ’17, the beloved man from Brooklyn began his talk.

Fr. Himes began by presenting a unique perspective on family. He stressed that family’s primary function was not simply to make an individual feel loved; more importantly, Father Himes noted, family offers a chance for an individual to love—sometimes in very challenging circumstances.

“It’s all about Agape,” Fr. Himes stressed, “Its about the giving of the self to the other.” Fr. Himes recognized that this type of love comes with a degree of vulnerability. In fact, he remarked, “A family is perfectly designed to hurt us.” For Fr. Himes, forgiveness and familial love are completely connected.

Fr. Himes, in his brilliant Brooklyn/British accent, told a few striking personal stories demonstrating the role of familial love in his own life. Perhaps the most telling point was that familial love entails recognizing another person as, in fact, another person. An individual’s brother or sister was not simply a brother or sister; he or she is a unique person with his or her own problems, virtues, weaknesses and passions. One of the benefits of family is achieving this type of wisdom. For Fr. Himes, reaching the age of reason entails “realizing that other people are other people…genuinely other people.”

Gavel Media/Amanda Ikard

Amanda Ikard / Gavel Media

Fr. Himes drew on Thomas Aquinas saying, “Caritas (the Latin version of Agape) is both the root and the crown of all virtue.” For Father Himes, love—particularly familial love—is the foundation and flourishing of virtues like wisdom, courage and forgiveness.

“Family shows us how closely we are tied to others,” continued Fr. Himes. Family entails accepting others for their individuality to be able to accept oneself.

Moreover, Fr. Himes demonstrated that the Judeo-Christian tradition is full of less than perfect family experiences. After some laughter, Fr. Himes aptly noted that the important thing to understand is, that families are never perfect, and beautifully so.

Throughout his talk, Fr. Himes discussed blood bound family but also noted that family does not exclude those that don’t share the same genes. For Himes, family is defined by those around an individual who are loved and in turn love unconditionally.

Father Himes concluded by noting, “you may forget being loved but you can never forget loving.”

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