Be My Valentine?

Happy Valentine’s Day! That greeting will be repeated many times today verbally and through cards, chocolate, flowers and other creative means that probably will cost Americans nearly $20 billion dollars!

What am I saying when I ask someone to “be my Valentine?” According to reference.com, “the phrase, ‘Will you be my valentine?’ does not symbolize asking someone to be in a steady commitment but means asking them to be a special friend for the day. This is why it is a tradition to give Valentine’s Day cards to classmates and friends in school. Exchanging these gifts is not a symbol of furthering a relationship but the agreement to shower each other with gifts for that day.”

That sounds pretty superficial and a sure gimmick to make some money for retailers! What often goes unnoticed is that today is actually the Feast of St. Valentine. Who was St. Valentine?

From the website catholiccompany.com we find a brief description of St. Valentine:

St. Valentine of Rome (c. 270) was a priest who lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Little is known of his life with certainty, except that he ministered to Christians who were persecuted and imprisoned for their faith, and died a martyr. One account has it that the emperor banned all marriages and engagements in Rome, believing this was the reason Roman men were unwilling to serve in the army. Valentine defied this unjust decree and continued to perform marriages for lovers in secret. He was arrested, and while in prison he restored sight to his jailer’s blind daughter, causing the jailer and his entire extended household, forty-six people in total, to immediately convert to Christianity. Upon hearing this, Claudius ordered Valentine’s execution. St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended, and signed it “From Your Valentine.” He was beheaded on February 14th. St. Valentine is the patron of many causes including bee keepers, betrothed and engaged couples, lovers, love, happy marriages, and young people. His feast day is February 14th.

I salute every opportunity to express love and friendship and it certainly should not be limited to just one day a year. It is fitting though to take this day, St. Valentine’s Day, to deepen our commitment to love the significant person in our life. That’s something that St. Valentine understood when he defied the Emperor Claudius’ decree. He knew that the love between spouses and those aspiring to marry is God’s best way of demonstrating how deep is God’s sacrificial love for us.

On this day the prayer of St. Valentine challenges and encourages me:

Teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other. Let them love each other in God in God in each other.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day! And most especially to my dearest Charlotte! I love you!

Be My Valentine?

A Snowy Day in New York City

It’s snowing and blowing in New York City. We’re expected to receive up to a foot of snow from winter storm Niko–a day after it was 63 degrees! Up one day, down the next. The weather can be a metaphor for life. There’s always weather, that’s a constant. But the weather conditions vary: hot, cold, warm, chilly, wet, dry, rainy, snowy, windy, you get it! It’s like when we say we have a temperature. We know that we mean that our temperature is elevated or not normal, but we always have a temperature, even when we “assume room temperature” as they say. So the weather (life) is constant, but the conditions of the weather (life) vary from day to day and from experience to experience.

Now I’m about to confess something about myself, my age and the impact that has upon how I view weather and life. I turned 60 on my last birthday. Unfortunately it harder to hide that fact from a physical standpoint, but inside, where it really counts, I don’t feel like I’ve lived six decades. Yet I believe the passing decades gives a perspective on life that I didn’t or couldn’t have when I was of “millennial” age. Just like the weather, life is always present. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes it breezes by like a warm summer day as you sit on the front porch drinking lemonade. When was the last time you did that?

So weather comes and weather goes. By next winter we will have forgotten Niko and its impact. Now here comes the “old man” talk. Life comes and goes as well. Back in the 70s, after Watergate, in the middle of the oil crisis and gas prices zooming up to 55 cents a gallon and President Carter’s “malaise” speech, we wondered if it could get any worse. It got better and it got worse and life happened.

Over the past couple months, and especially over the past few weeks I have heard people I know and love express two different opinions that could be taken from the opening words of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. “It is the best of times!” “It is the worst of times.” Without going into all that both opinions are basing their statement on, I want to add what I believe is something that is as certain as weather and life: “It is time to redeem the time.” I am reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” While that may sound pessimistic to some, and even optimistic to others, these are serious words to consider at all times. If you, as I, have declared allegiance to Jesus Christ, we have a mission. We are 1) to watch carefully how we live, 2) to live wisely not as one who is foolish, 3) to make the most of every opportunity, and 4) to remember that even with the best of efforts we are not going to make “heaven on earth.” Instead we are called to listen and follow the One who gave himself for us and shows us how to live.

This morning in my devotional reading I can across this quote from Blessed Charles de Foucauld who was a French Catholic priest who lived among the Tuareg people in the Algerian Sahara desert. In 1916 he was assassinated outside the door of the fort he built for the protection of the Tuareg, a semi-nomadic Muslim people. This is what Foucauld said: “We must stand up for the rights of our neighbor who is suffering from injustice; we must defend them all the more vigorously because we see Jesus present in them. Sure this is our duty because of our love for others for his sake. We have no right to be ‘sleeping watchmen’ or dumb watch-dogs. Whenever we see evil we must sound the alarm.”

What must I do? I must watch carefully how I live, following Jesus and not the whims and wishes of the day. I must be wise and not believe everything I hear because that would be foolish. I must make every opportunity to love and support those who don’t have a voice or can’t be heard. I must remember that my worst day is infinitesimally better than many people’s best day.

 

 

A Snowy Day in New York City