Here is a secret: I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day.
Before you stop reading, let me clarify something: I DO believe in celebrating the legacy of St. Valentine.
At the risk of coming off bitter, I don’t believe in the materialistic smorgasbord of flowers, chocolate, and superficiality that February 14 has become. I don’t believe that extravagantly loving the people in our lives should be something we only do one day a year. Why can’t we send flowers to the people we love on a random day in May? Why does it take seeing gigantic stuffed animals and oversized heart- shaped cards to remind us to stop and value the people in our lives?
I have a hard time with Valentine’s Day. I’ll be the first to admit it. Most of this difficulty comes from the fact that our Valentine’s Day celebrations are so far removed from the origin of the holiday and from Valentine himself.
One of the reigning theories about St. Valentine was that he was a priest in Rome under Emperor Claudius II. Believing that single men made better soldiers and were more likely to sacrifice themselves for their country, Claudius made it illegal for young couples to marry. Valentine could not abide by this injustice, so he continued to marry couples in secret. When it was discovered, he was executed. Another similar theory which pitted Valentine against the Roman Empire is the one where he helped Christians escape from Roman prisons. The end of the story is the same. He was executed for his actions.
What word would you use to describe the story of St. Valentine? I’ll tell you what word comes to my mind: epic. Is that the same word that you would use to describe our current Valentine’s Day frivolities? Hmmmm…I don’t think so.
Despite the society in which we live, I still believe in that epic sort of love, the love which drives us to risk everything. Certainly, we can have an epic love for people. St. Valentine had to love people in order to risk his life for them. However, I also believe that it was an epic love of truth, a love of justice, a love of goodness, and a love of honor that gave him the courage he needed to do what he believed was right.
Where is this epic love in our lives? What do we believe in? What in our lives is worth risking it all for? What do we stand for? Who do we stand for? Are we seeking after an epic sort of love, or are we happy accepting poor substitutes?
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life of love. I want everything that I do and everything I am to come from a heart of love. I don’t want obligation. I don’t want fear. I don’t want pretending. I want authenticity, sincerity, and courageousness to be my legacy. I want honesty and goodness to be the gifts I give people. And here’s the thing, I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.
So, on February 14, when we are enjoying our box of chocolates, let’s take a moment to celebrate St. Valentine, courageous hearts all over the world, and above all: epic love!