Will you be my Valentine?
A seemingly innocuous question, loaded with sentimentality, expectations and anxiety. What a saint’s day is and what Valentine’s Day has become, are two vastly different things in our culture today. For those who have a boy/girlfriend, or an intimate companion of some sort, it has become a potentially expensive day of gift-giving and romantic expression. For those who are not in a particular “coupled” relationship, the day is sometimes rejected as evidence of what is missing from the picture of their life. Ever been invited to a “bitter singles party?” (I have.)
My struggle with these two extremes is that they stem from a secular, commercial, market-based approach to the day. Neither is a reflection of the invitation that our calendar of saints offers us as a people of faith – stories of the lives of individuals who changed the world around them through faithful action, as followers of Christ.
Saint Valentine, recognized by the Roman Catholic Church on the date of his martyrdom, believed to be February 14, 270 A. D. His ministry included providing access to the sacrament of marriage to Christian couples who were persecuted in Rome at that time.
Valentine’s Day in the world around us may be filled with candy hearts and pink and red roses, but to me these are distractions from the driving purpose in St. Valentine’s life. He pointed to Christ with his words, his actions, and his role in the lives of couples seeking to solidify their family relationships, thereby strengthening the community in which they lived, despite discrimination by those who were in power at the the time. Valentine was a radical, and most of all, committed to being a part of letting the light of Christ be reflected in the lives of his people.
In this season of Lent, when we have the work of reorienting ourselves, of following Christ more closely in our lives, prayers, practices, actions, how might we reclaim the meaning of a Saint Day – from a sentimental secular holiday, to one that is more costly – one that challenges us to see where there is oppression that needs to be acted out against, to see where the intersection of our lives is powerful, and brings new meaning and hope to the community, to risk our own lives for the sake of others, so that we may better know Christ and others may better see Christ in us?
Read up on the saints – they are heartier than a box of chocolates. Won’t you be your community’s Valentine?