The greatest of these is love

This morning I recognized a shift in my journalism career that feels noteworthy. In the past two years, I’ve done more open-ended interviews than ever before.

It’s partly because I’ve pitched more stories (versus receiving commissions), granting me greater license over the shape of an article. It’s also because I’ve grown more patient, finally accepting the fact that a good interview simply cannot be rushed.

By Christina Capecchi

As a result, I’m able to explore my curiosities during each interview. When I read the notes from past conversations, I see recurring questions – the same wonderings held up to different light, each time eager to glimpse something new.

I love to discuss creativity. Do you believe everyone is creative? What sparks your creativity? How do creativity and faith relate?

As a Catholic writer, the answers to these questions matter to me.

I’m also drawn to lifestyle questions of wellness and rest. How do you recharge after a long day? What boundaries do you set up for social media? How do you guard your sense of wonder?

This question feels important. When I am filled with wonder, I am filled with faith – a profound, childlike faith that sees the good in all, awakened to the miracle of each new day.

There is so much chipping away at our sense of wonder – to great spiritual detriment. Identifying those forces becomes the first step.

But my favorite question is my closer. I used to pose it at random. Now, freed by my open-ended interviews, I raise it regularly. It’s a question I borrow from Oprah Winfrey, who borrowed it from the late film critic Gene Siskel. (You may borrow it too.)

What do you know for sure?

This question usually generates a pause. How good it is to pause and think before we speak, to not fear the silence, to not panic about the wait.

People respond with humility. Something about the “for sure” part, the expectation for expertise. They don’t want to assume too much. They don’t want to pretend their way into it. They choose their words carefully – and, by doing so, they choose few.

The older the person, the humbler their answer.

“When you’re young you think you know everything for sure,” a 74-year-old woman said. “The older you get, the more you realize that you really don’t know much for sure.”

What do you know for sure?

“Not a hell of a lot,” a bestselling Catholic author in her 70s told me.

“Not much,” my grandpa said a year before his death, chuckling.

Sometimes the not knowing is what we know for sure. The mystery is the certainty. Two retired 79-year-old Catholic men expressed this to me last year.

“What I know for sure is I still have a long ways to arrive at that point,” a well-read, widely traveled bishop said. “I have to learn more all the time.”

“I know that I don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives,” a former Catholic school principal told me. “Some people are in a terrible marriage, they’re in a terrible job, and I just don’t know. I know I have to be slow to judge.”

What do you know for sure?

A clear pattern emerged in the answers, coming from interviewees of all ages. Again and again, they landed on the same word: love.

“I know for sure that I love the Lord,” an empty nester said.

“I know the love of God in my life,” a bishop said.

“I know that I am loved,” a criminal prosecutor said.

“Love is real,” a high-school English teacher told me. “It’s worth fighting for. I know for sure it’s real.”

“The only thing I know for sure is that I’m loved,” a hospice CEO said. “That’s enough.”

And now these things remain. The greatest of these is love.

Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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