What Would St. Valentine Say
by Rev. Mark Connolly
Almost every February because of St. Valentine’s day, we are constantly reminded of love and marriage. Whether St. Valentine had in mind the same ideas of love and marriage that are offered today, is quite questionable. If you go back to Jesus Christ who St. Valentine followed, it is very clear what love and marriage meant to Christ according to his teachings. The poet Shelley once said that the most abused word in the English language is the word love. He said it is associated with sex, biology and synthetic romance. If you go back to the teachings of Christ, the concept of love has no ambiguity. Christ reminds his followers in particular St. Valentine to love one another as Christ has loved us. He said a new commandment I give you that you love one another; by this commandment shall all men know that you are my disciples if you bring into your society the love that I am bringing into my society.
If you bring the subject of love today into contemporary circles you cannot find a clearer author than Erich Fromm. His work, The Art of Loving is one of the greatest classics on the meaning of spiritual and theological love. Over and over his work he stresses that the subject of love must be accompanied by the right attitudes a person has developed. He said if you are thinking of marriage one of the themes that we must constantly have upper most in your thoughts is that success in marriage just does not consist in finding the right partner, but in being the right partner. We cannot enter marriage thinking that our inadequacies and limitations are going to be totally forgiven by another while at the same time doing nothing to remove those inadequacies and limitations.
If you study the teachings of Christ and Erich Fromm, there is no doubt that the attitude of Christ has to be brought into every relationship. If you want to find out what the attitude of Christ was then you soon find out that Christ emptied himself for others. Christ constantly had an extraordinary degree of generosity for others. One of the unique traits of his generosity is seen in the story of the ten lepers where Christ did not have any expectation of being rewarded. Yes, he was disappointed that only one came back, but he also knew that the real test in any relationship is that when something is done by one person to another that the one to whom it is done does not have any feeling of indebtedness to the other. This is the meaning behind emptying oneself for another.
Almost every man or woman who has experienced love has experienced disappointment. There might be road blocks toward the future development of that relationship, but if there is a fine tuning of the spiritual qualities taught by Christ and implemented in a relationship then the relationship and the marriage will more than survive. Every relationship is a process of growing up. Every relationship reminds us we bring a lot of baggage into the relationship with another. Every marriage should remind us that in our weakened moments we do not fight selfishness with selfishness or anger with anger or moods with moods., These qualities if implemented bring more violence and more bitterness into the relationship. Erich Fromm once said that the art of loving should be raised to the category of a professional, in other words it is an accomplishment that has been achieved over the years by studying the theology and psychology of Christ, growing up in the things of Christ, bringing as many spiritual qualities into your relationship as possible and knowing that in your heart that you are trying to be the right person. St. Valentine’s day is a reminder of love and marriage. Love that can be so beautiful and marriage that can be so challenging. It is more than candy or flowers, it is making sure that every day in your heart you try to be the right person for the day when you eventually get married.
The name Saint Valentine is associated with two martyrs of the early Christian Church. Little is known about them. The Roman history of martyrs lists two Saint Valentines as having been martyred on February 14 by being beheaded. One supposedly died in Rome and the other at Interamna, now Terni, 60 miles from Rome.
The Saint Valentine who died in Rome seems to have been a priest who suffered death during the persecution of Claudius the Goth about A.D. 269. A basilica was built in his honor in Rome in A.D. 350, and a catacomb containing his remains was found on this location.
Another history of martyrs mentions a Saint Valentine who was bishop of Interamna and who may have been martyred in Rome. By being remembered both in Rome and in Interamna, he may have come to be considered as two people, but this is not entirely certain.
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