Valentine’s Day is about true love
Last Tuesday, February 14, 2017, was Valentine’s Day or the feast of Saint Valentine. It was celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remained a working day in most of them. St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.
One of the men, who were to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time, was called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was said to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.
In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation, all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine” for performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of lovers.
In the secular world, Valentine’s Day is associated with romantic love. In the 18th century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers express their love for each other, by presenting flowers, offering confectionary and sending greeting cards. These days, unfortunately, Valentine’s Day has been turned into a moneymaking celebration, with those in the entertainment and sundry businesses smiling to the bank.
The true essence of Valentine’s Day is true love. It is supposed to be a day, when lovers and married couples reaffirm their love and genuine affection for one another. It is not only for married couples; singles also partake in the celebration by spreading what is called agape love. Interestingly, every year in the Archdiocese of Lagos, a day is set aside (this year’s was Saturday 11 February), when the Archbishop meets with the faithful (both singles and married) to share with them the joy of true Valentine.
Valentine’s Day should teach us about sacrifice. It is about nurturing our families and promoting the spirit of giving, sharing and sacrificing. Like the first Valentine did by laying down his life so that couples may be united, and as Christ did by laying down His life for us to gain salvation, we must be ready to make meaningful sacrifices in life. This also applies to marriage. Couples must be ready to make the necessary sacrifices for their marriage to work and this comes with lots of responsibilities. It comes with lots of ups and downs. It is not easy to maintain your commitment and your vows in marriage.
But most importantly, Valentine celebration should bring us closer to the source of true love, Jesus Christ. The Church frowns at a situation, whereby secularism appears to trivialise such a very important event that should be a source of great joy to humanity. We believe strongly that a world devoid of true love would be an empty one. We need genuine love all over the world to heal broken heart and melt the heart of stones, so that lasting peace may permeate the whole of humanity.
• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.