Believe it or not (wink, wink) there’s a message in Valentine’s Day beyond the chocolate, flowers and valentine cards. While it’s fun — and chocolate is delicious — it’s always worth asking with holidays and days of celebration: what exactly are we celebrating? Certainly not the billions we spend each year as we give companies our dollars in the name of love and kindness.
The message of Valentine’s Day is, of course, love, but it’s important that we don’t reduce that message to only the superficial kind. The legend of St. Valentine shares as powerful of a story of love as exists. The choice to love selflessly is just that — a choice. The legend of St. Valentine is worth retelling.
This piece is not intended to debate the authenticity of the legend of St. Valentine (it remains unknown, hence the word, “legend”) but rather to inspire through the message of love. St. Valentine was a priest in 3rd century Rome and is best known for a selfless choice he made.
The story is that St. Valentine defied the orders of the Roman Emperor, Claudius Gothicus, and married young couples. The problem was, the Emperor barred marriages from taking place because he needed single men to help fight for the Empire. St. Valentine was executed for his defiance — which was his belief in the spirit of love.
The reason for the day is obvious: To borrow a phrase from The Beatles,
“Love is all you need!”
No Greater Love Than This
We all know what a remarkable testament of love the ultimate sacrifice is — laying down one’s life for someone else. St. Valentine exhibited this type of love. In Valentine’s case, he laid down his life for the citizens of Rome and in the broader sense- the power of love.
His sacrifice meant many friends in Rome — people who wanted to unite their lives together — got to share in the sacrament of matrimony. This is God’s greatest gift to us: the gift of Love.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4–8
You’ve undoubtedly read these words above. They are often read at weddings and have frequently been used in movies. You know it’s coming, just like Owen Wilson’s character in Meet the Parents! Part of the reason why is because, while this is included in the New Testament of The Bible, it’s frankly religion-agnostic in its meaning.
St. Paul’s definition of what love is — in action — is as sound as any I’ve ever read or heard spoken.
It’s crystal clear about its intentions: what love is, what love should be and how the self-giving nature of this pure act is what makes it so special. It’s a wonderful blessing to put these words forth now. St. Paul was right: love is many things. Its message endures forever.
In the case of St. Valentine, his love was acted by giving up his life for others. He had to know his actions would infuriate the Emperor but he believed in its power so much, he risked everything. For St. Valentine, love rejoiced in the truth and endured long after his death. His love was embodied in the couples he married and the spirit it demonstrated to the citizens of Rome.
Think about your relationships and particularly, the way you love others. I know I have more love to give. My wife, son and family are counting on it. Our love will inspire others, enrich our relationships and permeate our lives. It will make us smile more often and bring joy to the lives of others.
While most of us will not need to lay our lives on the line — as our way of showing love — we should take St. Valentine’s example (legend or not) as inspiration to give more of who we are. We can always live with greater love for the people in our lives. I’m committing to doing this and I hope you will make the commitment with me.
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