Orbis Books: The Way of Love

“Love one another as I have loved you.”  — John 13:34

E veryone has a philosophy of life. For Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) in the 1954 movie On the Waterfront, it was “Do it to him before he does it to you.” Terry falls in love with a convent girl, Edie (Eva Marie Saint) who asks him, “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?” 

“I mean,” says Edie, “isn’t everybody a part of everybody else?” This is her philosophy of life. He calls her a fruitcake. 

Later Terry crosses paths with Father Barry (Karl Malden), whose parish is the rough waterfront of New Jersey. He, too, has a philosophy of life. When the mob murders a longshoreman, Father Barry stands over the corpse and preaches to the other longshoremen. One of them says he should go back to his church and Father Barry replies:

“Boys, this is my church! And if you don’t think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you’ve got another thing coming! Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up. He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about getting the rent and getting food in the house for the wife and the kids. … Every fellow down here is your brother in Christ! … He’s kneeling right here beside Dugan. And he’s saying with all of you, if you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me!” 

The words pierce Terry Malloy’s heart like the spear that ran through Jesus’ side. He starts to see what Edie sees: we are part of one another. His conscience stirs. “Conscience,” he complains to Father Barry later, “that stuff can drive you nuts!” It drives him instead into Edie’s arms and to a new philosophy of life. 

At the end of the movie Terry carries his hook over his shoulder like a cross and stands up for love, for God, for Edie, and his neighbors.

Yes, everyone has a philosophy of life. And, just like love, as the Andrew Lloyd Weber song goes, “It changes everything, how we live and how we die.”

The philosophy beneath The Way of Love is Edie’s and Father Barry’s and later Terry’s, expressed in a multitude of ways by more than a hundred great writers including Anne Lamott, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Richard Rohr, Brian Doyle and Thomas Merton. Some of the entries run three pages, while others are a single powerful sentence: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” (Zora Neale Hurston)

You can read this book from beginning to end or in chunks if you wish, and find something new or something you forgot that will give you inspiration or encouragement. Just as good, you can pick it up every now and then and turn to any old page and find something assuring that will help make your day.

The Way of Love is the sixth book in a series that includes The Way of Kindness, The Way of Gratitude, The Way of Forgiveness, The Way of Suffering, and The Way of Peace.  If “love is all you need,” as the Beatles sang, then this book is the only one in the series you need to read. But I hope you’ll want to read them all. Just as each of us is a part of everyone, so each of the values in each book blends one into another. Everything on the waterfront matters. 

For more Orbis Books previews, visit here.

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About the author

Michael Leach

Michael Leach is publisher emeritus of Orbis Books, the publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.