St. Valentine was tortured and beheaded by Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd century for marrying Christian couples in secret.
I don’t think I ever heard that factoid growing up in school. Candy, cards, and flowers seemed to dominate the conversation that day.
Then I got older and it seemed like I had to do something romantic because Hallmark told me to. But when I learned the origin of this holiday (a term that comes from “holy day”) I remember being confronted with the demands of what love truly means.
As a Christian, it means death to yourself. Perhaps that is in small ways, like letting your wife sleep in while you manage the kids, or giving up a listening ear to the coworker who interrupts you. Maybe it’s speaking the truth when it’s unpopular to do so. Or maybe it is the demand of your very life.
God is love and this love became flesh. In Jesus Christ, we have a model of love that isn’t all gumdrops and heart candy, but gritty, sacrificial, and joyful love. The Cross and death itself ultimately did not have the final say over this living God. Love endures because God is love.
The Cross is thus what we must expect if we live Christian love. Empires and governments have thrown Christians to the lions, drowned them, and destroyed their churches. It’s still happening today. We shouldn’t be so surprised when Catholic education and Catholic students come under attack by the media, when morality and objective truth is mocked and cast out, or when the truth of the goodness of human sexuality and marriage is distorted and twisted for self-pleasure alone.
The Cross is our brand. This is real love. Through sacrifice and self-gift, we emulate the love of Christ and manifest love as it was meant to be.
St. Valentine, pray for us!