Saint Valentine’s Day of Contradictions
Technically, it’s not a Lenten fast day today. The purple banner countdown will resume tomorrow. It’s still Sunday, just not . . . a day for fasting or abstinence.
So I had a day of contrasts and contradictions. A day in Lent that is not “lenten.”
A beautiful Mass in which the True Presence was truly present. We Christians are followers of Jesus, the long-promised Christ. He is “gone” for a while, but He comes in the Mass, in the manner in which He promised, each time. Gone, but here. How great a contradiction is that!
In the midst of this 40-day fast, then, today, I took a young friend out for lunch. She is going on a long trip and I really wanted to hear all about it. Besides, I like her company — and we had a delicious “feast,” complete with dessert, which I rarely order. Menu? roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and a Chocolate Silk pie!
But after all that activity, and when I got home, I noticed I was quite warm. Hot, even. Burning up with fever, actually. So on this day that my outdoor thermometer registered 0 degrees, as in ZERO!, my body chooses to contradict our cold spell with a fever.
I am prepared for class tomorrow, but the teacher (me) will not be there.
But some “little things” did arrive: Robins! Robins are Spring birds around here. That’s how we know Spring has arrived, the robins come back. But today, out back by the frozen pond, in single-digit winter weather, one of my bushes was filled with fat, puffy, red-breasted robins, playing and keeping warm, I guess. (No picture…. I don’t feel well enough to get their photos out of my camera.) So warm-weather birds contradicting their migration orders!
One more contradiction… We have the Saint Valentine’s Day remembrance — in the midst of a most contradictory culture which seems to have forgotten what marriage actually is – at least in its public statements and practices.
The man, Saint Valentine, didn’t die for Hallmark cards, candy, flowers, and chocolates. He died in the late Roman Empire* because he was helping the soldiers who were Christian and who wanted to be married. The Emperor had issued a decree forbidding soldiers to get married, although they were, of course, encouraged and expected to act “married” with a series of willing and equally immoral young women, whenever they felt the “urge.”
Christian men in the army rejected this and St. Valentine, priest, secretly married them – and was imprisoned, cruelly tortured, and died for it (as did many young soldiers).
So St. Valentine’s Day is all about marriage, real marriage, a sacramental marriage that is aided and made more beautiful by the grace of God.
This is not, it seems, what today’s public culture celebrates today. May God preserve us from facing further martyrdom to uphold the real meaning of marriage.
.*. “St. Valentine died in 269 AD, which you may or may not call the “late” Roman Empire …. depends on where you are in Rome’s timeline …. my thinking is really fuzzy right now . . . . .