Spirituality for Today – February 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 7

Missing a Saint?

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a painting Saint Valentine

Now, we welcome the shortest of months, but not the least. February is filled with both sacred and secular holidays. At its half-way point, one celebrates the feast of Saint Valentine. Yes, "Saint" Valentine! Apparently, this designation is becoming increasingly scarce as its secular influence grows. Saint Valentine's Day always has been a feast of love. To offer one's life for one's friend, for one's faith is the greatest act of love. Modeled by a Savior upon a cross, at least three saints named Valentine – all martyrs – followed such love in this manner. One person bearing the name was a priest, another Valentine was a bishop, and another Valentine of unknown origin died a martyr in Africa. In 496, February 14 was established by Pope Gelasius as the feast day of the saint. Saint Valentine's link to love was aided by the belief that birds mated around that time of the month. Yet, the most obvious and the most authentic expression of all that love truly is might be shown in a visible representation through a martyr's death.

To love very much is to love inadequately; we love – that is all. Love cannot be modified without being nullified. Love is a short word but it contains everything. Love means the body, the soul, the life, the entire being. We feel love as we feel the warmth of our blood, we breathe love as we breathe the air, we hold it in ourselves as we hold our thoughts. Nothing more exists for us. Love is not a word; it is a wordless state indicated by four letters…

Guy de Maupassant

These are times that eagerly erased the word Saint before that of Valentine. If most of the advertisements for the day were to be believed, the goal is to generate sexual desire in another person through candy, flowers, jewelry, or even a giant stuffed bear. In a time when all forms of human dignity have been displaced by the pursuit of self-centered aims, it should come as no surprise that love itself should be illustrated not by a heart, but by a phallic symbol, not by a person's desire to give the concern of one's total being to the gift of cherishing the whole being of another, but by a vision of two animals in heat. If it were possible to re-instate the honor and the meaning of the title "saint" before that of the term "valentine," perhaps, people will think and act on the celebration with the richness and joy that true love signifies. If so, it would go far toward providing a cure for any number of societal ills and would enhance the gratitude of the love of Christ giving himself in love for the salvation of all.