Dear Sacred Heart Family,
Valentine’s Day, like Christmas and All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween), is one of those days where history and evolution have torn us away from the true meaning and immense beauty of our celebration. Many people no longer feel connected with this day as they are not in an active love relationship or find themselves performing the compulsory shopping of flowers and chocolates even though their romantic relationships are in ruins. As such, it is worth our attention to go back to the roots of this celebration.
Valentine’s Day, at its heart, is the celebration of the martyr St Valentine, actually there were at least two St Valentines, both martyred in the 3rd century on February 14 . Pope Gelasius dedicated this as their feast day in 496. Later historians, such as Butler and Douse, tried to assert this poorly observed feast day was only an attempt by the Church to erase the pagan/Roman celebration of Lupercalia which was filled with sexual misdeeds, but they have been soundly rebuked.
In later centuries (during the Middle Ages), the common people in England and France noted how birds seems to pair up in this time of year and writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and later Blake, introduced the notions of romantic love into this feast day. With the advent of Hallmark and capitalism, we arrived to where we are today where we spend over 210 billion dollars each year in the name of love.
It is almost an universal understanding that the symbol of St Valentine’s day is a heart. Although this was a later inclusion, it is the most appropriate symbol to sum up what this day is about. To give one’s life, as did the St Valentines, takes an incredible amount of courage, it takes real heart. Their motivation, as with all the martyrs, was a sacrifice of love to follow in Jesus’ steps.
To follow the sacrifice of Jesus is to follow the love of Jesus and that love, as we know better than any Church, is wrapped up in the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we were to take the Sacred Heart as our image of Valentine’s Day, we would realize this day is for everyone, not just those in romantic love. Today is a day for us to give love to one another, but not simply chocolates or flowers, the real kind of love where we are ready to lay down our lives for one another, as Jesus did, as St Valentine did.
These sacrifices can be as grand as giving your life to another person but as simple as letting your siblings choose the movie. It can be as grand as giving your life to serve the Church as a priest, brother, sister, or deacon or as simple as making your parents breakfast in bed. We are all called to love today in the way of the Sacred heart in the way of St Valentine and when we do, we will know with every sacrifice we make, our hearts are filled with the best of loves, with the truest of loves, with the love that never leaves us.
With a heart for Mission,