Valentine’s Day—Love It or Hate It?
While Valentine’s Day certainly provides couples an opportunity to show their love and respect for each other, in secular interpretation it has come to be a day of token gestures, designed to bail us out of all the grief that we have caused our “significant other” over the course of the year. Even retail businesses have noticed this, exhibiting a cynicism about man’s ability to love that is practically celebrated everywhere I look.
I can easily provide a few examples of what I mean. Obviously, there are the gratuitous lingerie commercials that inevitably show up on TV, radio, and in newspaper advertisements. These merchants seem to be saying, “Show her how much you lust after her this Valentine’s Day with this special gift.” One radio commercial cynically noted, “After all, giving this gift is really for you [guys], isn’t it?” Oh, that’s right—this day is about ME!
Other radio commercials that I have heard say things like, “Come on, guys. This is the opportunity you have to show your significant other that you really care, especially after all of your insensitivity and carelessness of the past year. Now’s the time to bail yourself out! Free college basketball tickets with your purchase!”
Sadly, the mass media message seems to boil down to three simple statements. 1) We know you haven’t treated your “loved one” properly this year. 2) Women love material things, so make sure you buy something proportionately expensive to the bad things you’ve done. 3) Love for sale.
P.S. — Diamonds are forever.
It’s no wonder I have Catholic, married friends who hate Valentine’s Day—not because they are lazy, but because it’s a sham. When everything you hear and see prior to this holiday shows you the depravity with which it is viewed, giving your spouse a gift on Valentine’s Day makes you feel like a traitor.
The Real Valentine
Luckily for us, there’s an alternative to all this bunk that makes this holiday not only something to celebrate, but to look forward to. St. Valentine! If you take a look at our Liturgical Calendar for this month, you’ll see that February 14 is dedicated to Sts. Cyril and Methodius. However, at the bottom of the page there is a section devoted to Valentine. I suggest a quick look—it will only take about two minutes to read.
St. Valentine was a courageous priest and a martyr for the Faith. He performed Christian marriages for young men and women in defiance of orders from the Roman Emperor Claudius. Legend has it that before his execution Valentine converted his jailor and the jailor’s blind daughter. The night before his death, Valentine sent a farewell message to the daughter, and affectionately signed it “From your Valentine”.
This is a critical reminder that, like so many of our secularized holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, underneath the secular sham lies a legacy of true devotion and sacrifice.
In fact, the proximity of Ash Wednesday to Valentine’s Day might give us all some pause, and help us to think about how we treat our loved ones during the season of Lent. I know that I could make substantial improvements in this area, and I’m quite confident that there are others who might benefit from the same reflection.
Valentine’s Day isn’t a waste for Catholics—we just need a little conceptual realignment to put everything in perspective.
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