When I was a little girl, my father used to take me fishing at Crandle Lake — a little spot of water in northeast Montana several miles out from where we lived.
This has to be one of my favorite photos from those years. It says as much about what isn’t obvious than what is; less about me and more about those who loved me. The pigtails with the yarn ties — Mom’s doing. The sweater draped around my shoulders to keep me warm — Dad’s.
Dad taught me a love of fishing and the being out in nature that came with it. From an early age, I learned the language of fishing and the peace that was possible when waiting for something to bite, not to mention the sheer excitement of feeling that tug on the line — often after a very long wait, especially for one six years old.
Recently, I read a reflection in Magnificat magazine that brought me back to those days of casting and reeling. It caught me and I wanted to share. It’s about fishing, but more, it’s about love. It comes from the mind and heart of Fr. John Tauler, O.P., a German Dominican priest, popular preacher and mystical theologian who died in 1361.
He likened love to the hook on a fisherman’s line. “The fish must take the hook or the fisherman can never catch him,” he wrote. “After the hook is once in his mouth, the fish may swim about and even swim away from the shore, but the fisherman is sure to finally land him.”
This, he said, is love. “Whoever is caught by love is held perfectly fast, and yet in a sweet captivity.”
Nothing brings you nearer to God, makes God so much your own, as the sweet bond of love, Fr. Tauler added. “Whoever is caught by this hook is so entirely captive that feet, hands, mouth, eyes and heart — everything that is himself — becomes God’s own.”
The work of perfect love, he said, is more fruitful to a man’s own soul and to the souls of all other people with whom he deals, and it brings more glory to God, than all other works.”
“The fish may swim about…but the fisherman is sure to finally land him.”
This is beautiful imagery. And assuring. For once caught we are His; we can be confident the One who loves us beyond all imagining isn’t about to let us go once we’re within reach.
Oh, we’ll try. The world will tempt us. It will say, “Look at this freedom here. Don’t leave the bounteous water for captivity!” And we will want so much to find a way out of the hook.
For one, the hook can appear painful. And who wants that? But eventually, at some point, we will somehow realize that we have been saved from having been snatched up and consumed, and that our fisherman does not plan to fry us up but will bring us to another, better lake where we will be nourished and allowed to grow to our natural capacity.
Captivity may seem confining, and indeed it is often so. But when Love is our captor, it can be just the opposite of that.
I’m hooked. Are you?
[To read the whole reflection, see p. 250 of the February 2014 issue of Magnificat.]