The popular celebration of Valentine’s Day in modern secular times does have its origin in a more sacred setting. Although the actual history is lost in the mists of time there are more than one account of Valentines, they were martyrs in the early Christian church, ministering to fellow Christians, persecuted for their Christian faith but with an extra twist to their stories. One priest, or bishop, was guilty of conducting marriages for young couples so that the husband was exempted from military service. In another story Valentine, a prisoner and obviously a holy man, cured the judge’s daughter of blindness and before his martyrdom wrote the girl a letter signing it “your Valentine.”
St Valentine was a popular religious veneration figure in the Middle Ages but has become highly commercialized in our day. So much so that parishes are selling flowers, chocolates and fluffy toys, while but I have yet to see greeting cards with the words of St Paul “Love is patient, love is kind……..” or “a husband is patient, a wife is kind!”
Valentine may be a symbol of love but originally there was a strong connection with marriage. An old well-known song goes “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Just as horses and carriages have gone out of fashion it seems so has love connected to marriage.
While Pope Francis in his letter on family life “The Joy of Love” gives a nod to the commercial world for taking up this chance to celebrate love, his letter as a whole focuses very strongly on marriage. The Church still sees marriage as the ideal foundation for a healthy family made up of a husband, wife and children. However ideal that image may be it is not the lived experience of a large percentage of families. At the same time marriage needs to be revered and honoured by everyone as a Sacrament of the Church which makes it a unique sign of the presence of God in our lives.
Do couples remember that is what they are when they deal with the ups and downs of their relationship and practice their life-giving skills? Do children and youth witness good marriages, i.e. positive working relationships? Do priests and religious witness with and to couples how God is present in each of the unique life situations? Some parishes may have been conscious of World Marriage Day on Sunday 9th February. Sadly as the Church on the whole we do not appear to have been very aware. Better luck next week or maybe next year!
MARFAM’s theme for the month of February as a whole is LOVE GIVES FAMILIES LIFE. Marriage is a life-giving loving relationship but not the only one. To quote from the explanatory booklet accompanying the 2020 Family Year Planner, “God, the creator is a lover and it is God’s love that is life-giving, creating life continually, sustaining and renewing what has been created. Our task and gift as human beings and life-givers is co-creation with God in bearing and nurturing children and in maintaining loving relationships. Human relationships of commitment and care are mirrored and carried forward in care for all of creation, animal or plant, soil, water and air.
With Lent just around the corner families can begin to plan their ACTS OF LOVE AND SACRIFICE and possibly include activities to build and clean, protect and save aspects of the world around us. Remember, OUR WORLD, IS A FAMILY OF FAMILIES!
See MARFAM Lenten resources to purchase or download. A donation towards this would be most welcome. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 12 February 2020 https://www.marfam.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/2020-LENTEN-CALENDAR.2.pdf