In 2013 CNN estimated people in the United States spent 18.6 million dollars for Valentines Day. Legends of A priest named Valentine are rather murky and there are as many as 3 men who may actually be Saint Valentine but every year people celebrate the very secularized and horribly commercialized version of the Feast of these mystery men from almost 2,000 year ago. Of all the Saint Valentine legends the most compelling is that he was a priest in Rome under the reign of the Emperor Claudius II who, against the law of Claudius, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for Christians and for that was beaten, stoned, and beheaded in 269 AD.
For both Christians and secular observers of the Feast of Saint Valentine the idea of performing marriages against the law of the land is a very current topic. Christians traditionally look to the lives and works of the saints as guidelines for their own lives. Saint Valentine’s rebellious acts are a call to action for us all. As a society we are proud to be voracious consumers but we are complacent in the face of tyrannical governments, unjust laws, and oppressive, hateful attitudes. We are more outraged by the outcomes of reality shows than the fact that people in more than 75 countries can be legally prosecuted and sentenced to jail terms, public beatings, or even death if found guilty of loving the wrong person. We follow the 24 hour marriages and divorces of the rich and famous but we are content to ignore the abuse and deaths of the young girls who sold as child brides to men old enough to be their fathers. I am not an expert in the lives of the saints but I have never heard of Saint Persecute The Gays or Saint Turn a Blind Eye to the Abuse, Rape, and Murder of Children. I have, however, read about plenty of saints who, attempting to walk in the way of Jesus of Nazareth, preached love and compassion and tolerance. I have read about saints who sold everything they had and gave the money to the poor. I have read about saints who stood for love and morality in the face of violent, oppressive governments and rescued the weak from their captors.
The modern world we live in still dictates who one can-or must-love almost 2,000 years after Saint Valentine was martyred in the name of the freedom to love. So my proposal to all of those celebrating Valentine’s Day is forget the slave grown chocolates, forget the pesticide laden roses, forget the conflict diamonds, don’t give any more money to the corporations. Let’s spend some time educating ourselves about the plight of babies forced into marriage. Research what corporations and non-profits are spending money to support legislation that results in the legal murder of our homosexual brothers and sisters world wide. Perhaps today we can pause to reflect upon what love really means.
In the words of another saint, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”.