St. Valentine’s Day is upon us and we all know what that means. Every year, our grocery stores are filled with heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate and other red and pink products. Sadly, it can often become a time for secular society to focus on a disordered romantic love. The holiday has become detached from its roots and assumed by the broader culture similarly to St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas. Instead of being focused on love as self gift, it can often be focused on consuming – consuming products and consuming love given by others. It can be difficult to even call this secular holiday a holy day, straining its relationship to St. Valentine.
But that is what the day is. It is St. Valentine’s Day, and even if the world doesn’t celebrate it properly, we can still do so. (Of course, we should seek to love our significant others every day. We should never need a reason to do what is right and good for the ones we love.) We can reclaim this holiday, if not for the culture, then at least for ourselves. For those of us who are married or dating, we can still celebrate this day by showing love to our significant others. We can be witnesses to properly ordered romantic love. This may include sharing our testimony with each other and remembering the ways the Lord has worked in our relationship. It may involve dying to yourself in a special way, seeking to do something outside the ordinary for the one you love.
We can love as Christ loved. In fact, to love is to live in the imitation of Christ. Instead of seeking to consume, we can seek to give, loving in a way that is ordered towards the good of our beloved. Our love can be a total gift of ourselves, instead of a gift given in hope of a reward. As Gaudium et spes stated and St. John Paul II reiterated throughout his pontificate, this is how we are called to love.
St. John Paul II reiterated this point because when we love in this way, we are living God’s will for our life. Perhaps loving others doesn’t give us the same spiritual consolation that we are used to experiencing after a holy hour in adoration or after receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, but that does not mean that the love we give others is not helping us to grow in sanctity. Truly, it is just the opposite. When we respond to grace and actively love, particularly when it is difficult to do so, we are becoming the persons God desires us to be. This is the type of love we should celebrate and strive to live out on St. Valentine’s Day.
Celebrating St. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for people who are married or dating. Those who are single can celebrate it, too. Of course, St. Valentine himself was a priest. Even if romantic love isn’t proper for our state of life, we can witness to the wide breadth of love that is often overlooked. We can show love to all those around us, and most importantly, to God. This can include an act of kindness to a stranger, calling a loved one, or praying for someone you have a trying relationship with. And if we are feeling particularly alone this St. Valentine’s Day, we can ask St. Valentine himself for his intercession.
This St. Valentine’s Day, let’s work to reclaim this day as a true holy day by loving all those around us in the imitation of Christ, and praying that all may encounter Christ’s healing love.