Session 3: “Greatest of These is Love”: Discovering Love

Aim: To communicate the Church’s definition of romantic “love” to teens and give them tools to differentiate real love from the many different feelings that today’s society attributes to “love.”

Objectives: By the end of this session participants should be able to . . .

  • Articulate differences between love, lust, and infatuation through examples.
  • List and describe the characteristics of a healthy love including St. Paul’s definition in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8.
  • List elements needed for a loving relationship (recognition of the other person, permanence of relationship, commitment, ability to do for the other even when it means not doing for self, etc.).
Useful Texts (Scriptural, Canonical, Liturgical, Lives of Saints, etc.)

1 Cor 13: 4-8.


  • Journals


I. Opening Prayer

II. Check-In and Review

III. Activity #1: Definitions

IV. Activity #2: Case Studies

V. Activity #3: C.A.R.I.N.G.

VI. Session Conclusion

VII. Closing Prayer

I. Opening Prayer

II. Check-In: As each person checks in, have them describe how they are doing or feeling in terms of a love story (in one or two sentences at most!). You could explain it, if necessary, as follows: "If I were a romance novel today I would be a . . . ." For example: a tragic love story where everyone dies; an exciting adventure where anything can happen; a silly puppy-love story; an 850-page school assigned book that no one wants to read; etc." Explain, if you need to, that in this session we will be talking about love, lust and infatuation.


  • What are three misconceptions about sex and sexuality? [Sex is sinful, our bodies are evil, women are more sinful than men, etc.]
  • What are at least three of the Church's teaching about sex and sexuality? [Sex is meant to be kept in marriage, sin is not of the body, God has a plan for our sex life, etc.]

III. Activity #1: I Love . . .

Time: 10 minutes

Purpose: This is a introductory activity designed to get participants thinking about the how often we use the word love and the many different meanings it can have. You can use this as a journal exercise to begin with and then move to the chalkboard, or move directly to the chalkboard.

"We use the word 'love' in so many different ways to mean so many different things. Because loving can mean so many different things, we can say we 'love' just about anything. In your journals, write the words 'I love . . . ' (write this on the board) at the top of a page. Under that, complete the sentence with as many answers that are true for you." Give them a few minutes to write down answers.

  • "Did you find that there was a number of different things you can say that you love? What are some of the things you love?" [I love my mom, my car, my girlfriend, pizza, sailing, art] As you get the answers, write them down on the board surrounding the words "I love . . ." After there is a variety of answers, continue the discussion by asking:
  • "What is the difference between saying 'I love pizza' and 'I love my mom'?" [Mom is a lot more important; My stomach loves pizza, my heart loves my mom; I love pizza unconditionally, etc.] Looking at the list on the board, have them describe the different meanings of love. See if you can come with categories of love such as romantic, friendship, family, enjoyment, etc.

"We usually mean something very different when we say we love someone versus when we love a thing. And we usually mean something different when we say we love someone romantically."

IV. Activity #2: Case Studies

Time: 15-20 minutes

Purpose: This activity allows students to look at three specific situations in which someone might use the word love to describe their emotion. Students should hopefully be able to see the following differences between love, lust, and infatuation.

  • Love involves caring about a person and valuing them for who they are as an entire being. Love provides the basis for a relationship that can grow and mature.
  • Lust usually is based on sensual factors that please the person who is 'in love'-- the person lusted for exists primarily as a source of sensual stimulation, whether it be visual or tactile. The 'love' behind lust lasts only as long as the interest and excitement do, leaving no lasting basis for a relationship.
  • Infatuation is usually based on a fantasy and the imagination, in which the person 'loved' is really loved for what the other person believes they could be. Thus, an infatuation often leads to feelings of disappointment as the person's wishes go unfulfilled, their 'love' failing to be returned.

Have participants get into small groups for discussion. Pass out a copy of the case studies to each group. Each group should read them aloud and answer the questions on the bottom. Introduce the activity as follows:

"Even when we use the word 'love' in a 'romantic' sense, we can still mean several different things. On this sheet are three different examples of so-called 'love'. Only one of them is really what can be called love. Of the other two, one is what we would consider 'lust' and one is 'infatuation.' In our groups, let's read these case studies and answer the questions at the bottom."

Answers: Of the case studies the first is love, the second is lust, and the third is infatuation. After they answer the questions, go over the above definitions with them.

V. Activity #3: C.A.R.I.N.G.

Time: 10-15 minutes

Purpose: This is a brief activity designed to provide the participants with an easy to remember checklist of the elements that go into a Christian definition of love. They will be asked to design their own acrostic, using the following as a model:

C - Commitment: standing by a person when they are down, believing in them.

A - Acceptance: accepting a person for who they really are.

R - Responsibility: being accountable for oneself and responding to another person appropriately.

I - Integrity/Integration: permeating every part of life, honest, consistent, not hypocritical

N - Nurture: giving, supportive, helping a person to grow

G - God: praying to and calling on the source of all love.

These are the things to build a healthy relationship. The first part of this activity is a brainstorm to come up with a list of possible elements. Then, you will introduce the acrostic above (or one like it) as a model for them. Then, using the list of elements listed, they will come up with an acrostic themselves.

"St. Paul in 1 Corinthians provides a pretty extensive list of qualities about real love. Following his example, we can make a list of what love is (or should be). A good idea is to start by taking each characteristic of love in 1 Corinthians 13 into one word, then coming up with your own words. What do you think the ingredients of love are? Let's brainstorm for a few minutes and come up with a list. You can write the results in your journal." Take a few minutes. When all groups are finished ask for their answers and have them put them on the board.

"There are an awful lot of ingredients that go into Love-- just as there is a lot that goes into developing a healthy relationship with someone. One way we can keep them together is to connect them through other words. For example: Love is C.A.R.I.N.G..

C Commitment

A Acceptance

R Responsibility

I Integrity

N Nurture

G God

  • "Why do you think each of these is important as an ingredient of Love?" Go over each one, using the above descriptions and/or dictionaries.

"Let's come up with our own 'acrostics' or word puzzles to help remember the elements of Love. You can start with any word that you think is an essential element of Love and make an acrostic out of it as well." After a few have completed their puzzle, have them present it to the whole group. If you are finding that acrostics are too difficult, you may want to ask them to design recipes for love, using measurements, directions, etc.

"Keep your acrostics in your journal. Copy C.A.R.I.N.G. (above) into your journal as well. In later sessions, we will apply them to our own lives and see if our 'love' is made of the right ingredients." In session 5, participants will be asked to evaluate what they would look for in a marriage partner and marriage relationship.

VI. Session Conclusion:

Review questions:

  • What is the difference between love, lust, and infatuation?
  • How does the Bible describe love (in 1 Corinthians)?

"We must be careful when we say the word love. We should be clear about what we mean by it-- especially in our relationships. Are we really loving a person or are we just infatuated, or worse? When our love is not made of the right ingredients it usually turns out quite different than what we expect and hope."

VII. Closing Prayer