In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us, “Let all that you do be done with love.” What a great thought for Valentine’s Day. Most of us have grown up thinking of this day as a day for expressing friendship with little heart-covered valentines and, if we are lucky, even heart-shaped pieces of candy with little messages on them that don’t really matter as much as the flavor! And for some, Valentine’s Day is a chance to share heartfelt sentiments that might never be expressed otherwise, at least not with such passion and romance. Yet, the origin of this special day actually goes back to early Roman times when a young soldier name Valentine was jailed for protesting the Emperor’s decree that young men were to be soldiers and not allowed to marry. Other sources say that this day is attributed to the actions of a man, again named Valentine, who helped Christians escape from prison. And still others say that there was a man named Valentine who sent a greeting to those he loved from prison and hence, the first Valentine! One thing is for sure, February 14th is a day where one and all are invited to reflect on the meaning of love in their lives, whether that love is prompted by divine grace or human affection. When we think about it, no one can really live without love. How fitting, then, that we dedicate a day when we not only think about love in our life but actually reach out and tell others that we love them, as well. Charles Schultz, the famed creator of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and lovely Lucy, summed it all up by saying, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
Our first reading, taken from the creation account in the book of Genesis, captures the thoughtful kindness of our God as God creates the first man, Adam, and a loving partner, Eve. Adam is the word given for humankind; Eve (Eva) signifies that she is the mother of humankind. How well God knew and loved all of creation, desiring from the very beginning of time, that we would not be alone but would know love, God’s love, personally and through one another. In the passage from Mark’s Gospel we see love overflowing from the heart of Jesus himself as he responds to the mother’s desperate plea that her daughter be cured from the grasp of a terrible demon. How I would love to have witnessed this encounter between the mother, a “foreigner” as the scriptures tell us, whose love was absolutely selfless, as she unhesitatingly cries out to Jesus who was trying so hard to enter the home without even being noticed! Nothing could stop her; nothing could hold her back so great was her love.
On this day, then, St. Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love, human and divine. While we enjoy the candies and little messages on pieces of colored paper, perhaps we can also remember the invitation of St. Paul who, once again, reminds us to let everything that we do be done with love. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Saint Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.