Brackley on Falling in Love

Dean Brackley, SJDean Brackley, the late Jesuit educator who spent many years teaching in El Salvador, wrote a beautiful meditation on what it feels like to fall in love because of the ministry of the poor. The text comes from a piece he wrote in 2000 for Salvanet, “A Publication of Christians for Peace in El Salvador,” published as a PDF file here.

Writing of those who visit El Salvador for the first time, he says:

The visitors feel themselves losing their grip; or better, they feel the world losing its grip on them. What world? The world made up of important people like them and unimportant poor people like their hosts. As the poet Yeats says, “things fall apart;” the visitors’ world is coming unhinged. They feel resistance, naturally, to a current that threatens to sweep them out of control.

They feel a little confused–again–like the disorientation of falling in love. In fact, that is what is happening, a kind of falling in love. The earth trembles. My horizon is opening up. I’m on unfamiliar ground, entering a richer, more real world. We all live a bit on the periphery of the deep drama of life, more so, on average, in affluent societies. The reality of the periphery is thin, one-dimensional, “lite,” compared to the multilayered richness of this new world the visitors are entering. In this interchange with a few of their representatives, the anonymous masses of the world’s poor emerge from their cardboard-cutout reality and take on the three-dimensional status of full-fledged human beings.

That is what love is like: “entering a richer, more real world.” Of course many are like those in Plato’s cave, content with the small pleasures, unwilling to take the risk of love. For love is demanding. It changes your whole world. It is always holy ground, the place where we experience the terror of not being in control. That is why love is the least inadequate way of conceiving of God.

Image by logostoni under Creative Commons license.


  1. Tim, this is so thought-provoking. During the season of Advent when most people are thinking of the sweetness of love in the baby Jesus, this challenges us to remember the awesome power of love to disturb us and to change the world if we would only respond. Thank you.


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