Only love matters
“Love is a choice, and it awakens us to possibilities we never dreamed of, no matter what our age.”
Most of us associate St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love expressed in gifts of candy and flowers, special dinners and favorite love songs. That may be why the February holiday can be tense or even sad for women (and probably men) who are alone. The holiday can be coated with sentimentality.
But the saint whose name is given to this holiday was not known for sentimentality. The most authoritative account of Saint Valentine can be found in the classic Butler’s Lives of the Saints, but even here, there are variations on the life of someone who has a feast day and who also is linked to myriad legends. One thing that all the stories have in common is that Valentine was a priest and that he was martyred in the Roman persecution of Christians. Hardly a case of hearts and flowers! And yet Valentine the martyr is claimed by those in love.
No one wants to dismiss the beauty of romantic love, certainly not I, but it is only one of all the loves that make for a rich and rewarding life.
Recognize resurrection moments
In his wise and wonderful book, True Resurrection, H. A. Williams reflects on several dimensions of resurrection: resurrection of the spirit, of the mind, of the body. All of these dimensions are characterized by recognizing and living in a state of love.
For example, Williams recounts the story of a woman we’ll call Alma, who in her widowhood cut herself off from much social interaction. One day Alma was asked to help with a rummage sale at her church. Those who came to purchase the discarded goods were poor (Alma herself was a person of means), and this was her first conscious “eyes-open” contact with people who had little by way of goods but much by way of humility. Alma began to volunteer on a regular basis, helping in the soup kitchen as well as the occasional rummage sale. Then, one day, while serving a late-afternoon meal to those who frequented the church’s outreach programs, Alma saw a woman in tears. Putting aside her usual reserve, Alma went to the tearful woman to ask if she could help. The woman turned and embraced Alma who was surprised to find her own tears freely flowing. Alma realized it was the first time she had felt an embrace in several years, and it was the first time she knew how similar her life was to that of the poor. Alma made a new friend that day and felt a new opening to the many possibilities of love. This was a resurrection moment for her.
Retain capacity for love
As we age and experience loss—our hearing, our vision, our memory, our loved ones—we still retain the capacity for love. On my desk in a prominent place is a phrase attributed to Saint John of the Cross: “In the evening of life, only love matters.” I believe that statement is true and that it is more than a Hallmark card, charming as they are. Love is a choice, and it awakens us to possibilities we never dreamed of, no matter what our age.
In the poem “Let Evening Come,” Jane Kenyon tells the reader not to be afraid and adds the assurance that God does not leave us comfortless.
These are reassuring and inspiring thoughts for us to carry into this year’s celebration of St. Valentine’s Day. We might also ask the questions: Who in my world is in need of comfort and love? And am I willing to offer it?
How do you celebrate St. Valentine’s Day? How do you offer comfort and love? Share your thoughts by clicking on Contact Us
Friday, January, 30, 2009