Here we are! It’s about that time again. Winter stubbornly clings and we are breathless with the hope that grey will soon be replaced with gold and that someone will finally love us! Yep it’s Valentine’s Day once more. More than a hallmark holiday, the idea of love and anti-loneliness is pervasive and all around us. We see it, hear it, read it, touch it, taste it and watch endless perfusions of what to cook, how to shop, what to buy and on. In reality this is actually the celebration of a saint of the Church, you could say a holy holiday. Yet in all the meticulous descriptions of where to make reservations and how to celebrate, religion is rarely, if ever mentioned. We are completely fixed on looking inward. We desperately want to figure out what makes feel good, secure, surrounded by some (any) kind of presence and most of all not alone! During the rest of the year all of our cultural icons point to one or all of these hungers. At Valentine’s Day, though, these are magnified everywhere in the culture.
Therein lies the most obvious clue to our exhausting search. The philosophies of world faith can basically be boiled down to two concepts. Non-Christian religions the east focus on looking inward, the pursuit of personal perfection. Christian religions of the west focus on looking outward, the pursuit of a relationship with the most high God. These two forces drive everything in the culture. In the U.S. our basic Christian ideals have faded into the pursuit of perfection. There’s the unsolvable dilemma. As humans, personal perfection is basically an unreachable goal. In the words of Bonnie Raitt: “I can’t make you love me.” As a human who is imperfect, though, I can come to God over and over and beg his forgiveness and ask Him to teach me how to let Him love me! His answer is never no.
So when you think of Valentine’s Day remember that it is one more opportunity to aim at holiness and to tell God you want to be loved. It is a day to tell Him that you love him and to ellicit St. Valentine to fill you with wisdom about the true nature of love. Neither of these is hard and neither requires the purchase of flowers, exotic chocolate or pricey jewelry. St Frances De Sales describes a prayer/practice that would be perfect for the day. If it’s the only thing you do that day, you will have accomplished quite a bit and maybe a new prayer habit. Oh yes, reach outward, tell those who love you that you love them. If no one comes to mind immediately resolve to tell one person that day that God loves them very much!
“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”
— St. Francis de Sales
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham