I’m about as romantic as they get.
I love art and beauty, music infiltrates every cell of my being, I am a poet, I love being in relationships with people, and let’s not forget, most of all, I LOVE chocolate.
So how could I possibly combine the idea of ashes and ‘dust to dust’ and death and sin and mortification and sacrifice with… the Romantic Lovey Dovey Day?
Could it be that I really am so busy that I’m doing a ‘two for the price of one’ blog? ….. ahem…. well, that may have some truth to it, now that I think of it… hmmmm…..
But really, the title of this blog has been on my mind since last week, and maybe since I was married. Ok, before I was married. I have simply always been annoyed by Valentine’s Day.
Naysayers may point out that I’m ‘jealous’ of all those lovey dovey couples where the guy gives his beautiful woman a bouquet of flowers and whispers sweet nothings in her ear and asks her out on the millionth of a million dates.
Wait, am I thinking of a soap opera I once saw?
Or Facebook postings? Yes, it was probably Facebook, seeing as I haven’t had time for soap operas for as long as I can remember. Or bon bons.
But speaking of Facebook, I saw a brilliant status by a friend yesterday that said something to the effect of “why do people insult their spouses all year long, and then brag about them and get all gushy on Valentine’s Day?” And later on, I got another message from another friend saying they were going to build up their spouse for Lent. And then it hit me. What a profound message from both of these beautiful friends of mine. What a profound connection… The two feasts go together.
To address the Facebook message from my friend, what IS Valentine’s Day about anyway? Yeah, yeah, we know it’s a big commercial opportunity for card and flower and chocolate sales. But aside from that, why do couples feel the pressure to gush out ‘their love’ on this particular day? Is it because of Hallmark? Or, do we really truly know who St. Valentine was and what this feast is really all about? Yes, it’s about love… but maybe it would be handy to know a little more about this fellow who has inspired pink and red all over the place during the second week of February every year…
For our information, Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.
Beaten with clubs and beheaded. I can see it now. “To my gorgeous beloved Valentine… may we continue to beat each other’s hearts with clubs and behead each other’s egos for many more years.” You know, I may have bought a card like that (since I am guilty as charged.) Sadly, I haven’t seen one of these in the stores; however, I understand they are there to make a profit, even if people are faking their love for one day out of the year.
But for the most part, maybe people aren’t faking their love. Maybe they really DO love each other, with all the depth in the world… but their love makes them FEEL beaten up, in the sense of self-sacrifice, patience, endurance, commitment… and they stick it out like they said they would on their wedding day. Maybe they don’t need a bunch of red and pink and gushy cards (although there is NOTHING wrong with those!)… maybe they take Valentine’s Day as a day to take a moment to gaze into their beloved’s eyes. Maybe they write a simple note, from the heart, and leave it on their pillow or on the mirror… maybe they do a hidden sacrifice out of love, go that extra mile… maybe they tell their spouse (and everyone else) in their Facebook status how much they are truly in love… Whatever it is, it should be authentic, and it should represent the kind of love that the real St Valentine had for the church, the people, who he was willing to die for in a… yes, a HEARTbeat.
And if our love is truly authentic, why should that be limited to one day a year? My friend’s message really struck me. Every day is St. Valentine’s day. And instead of beating each OTHER up, the suffering unto death should be FOR each other. That is how St. Valentine showed love, real love. Are we willing to take the beatings of the world and the beatings of temptations to stick with our beloved one, and love them with all our heart?
And so this brings me to Ash Wednesday, today. My second friend mentioned a renewed commitment to speak kindly to and about her spouse. This brought everything together for me. Isn’t this a wonderful way to ‘fast’ and ‘do’ something extra charitable? And believe me, this is not easy for many of us, myself included. If we show our loved one our positive support, our building up of their character, our respect and admiration, our love through gritted teeth sometimes when we don’t know HOW we can hold our tongue… will we not be closer to Our Lord by the time we reach Holy Week? Will we not be a better person by Easter?
I think this is going to be my Lenten commitment, and seriously, I am sure fasting from chocolate would be a whole lot easier.
So yes, I’m going to get my ashes today…
And I hope they will be in the shape of a heart.
Love and prayers in this holy season,