The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy SAINT Valentine Day

Poor St. Valentine. His feast day has been overrun by a constant stream of commercialism and syrupy sentimentalism that seems to flow more quickly and more deeply with each passing year. For decades candy or flowers were the expected gifts a man gave to his sweetheart, but now expectations have apparently become inflated. Today jewelers warn of catastrophic rejection if the object of one's affection isn't showered with diamonds. One cruise line sent me a slick brochure demanding that I book a week-long Caribbean cruise. Failure to do so would shatter my relationship with my "significant other." And a local car dealership, while reminding its customers that "love is priceless," encouraged them to buy their lover a $40,000 vehicle. It's all quite strange. And I find it somewhat incongruous that in these times of supposed sexual equality, almost all the ads are aimed at men. Are there no feminists on Madison Avenue? 

Thankfully Dear Diane and I have never celebrated this pseudo-holiday except to honor the saint whose name it bears. This morning we greeted each other with a kiss and words of love, the same kiss and words with which we begin every morning. I did, however, add a little something extra today. When I awakened her this morning I handed her a cup of freshly brewed hot coffee in my favorite mug. Now this might seem less than trivial, but Diane truly admires this mug. It's really quite a handsome mug, and she bought it for me on a recent visit to Nantucket. 

Those who know me well also know that I have a rather large collection of coffee mugs, acquired on my travels over the years. To elevate a particular mug to "favorite" status is not something I do capriciously. The mug must earn this label. Size, shape, color, graphics, origin, even the "feel" of the mug -- these and other attributes enter into the mix that ultimately enshrine a mug as most favored. Until it is supplanted by another, the Nantucket mug reigns supreme.

Because of this Dear Diane has refused to drink from this particular mug, fearing she might drop and break it. As I handed it to her this morning I told her not to worry, that I would rather have a broken mug than a broken heart. It's her presence in my life that keeps my heart whole and happy. This so pleased her that she allowed me to vacuum the living and dining rooms and set up the card table in anticipation of the arrival of her friends who are now here playing mahjong.

St. Valentine
Yes, poor St. Valentine -- well, not really "poor" since he is, after all, a saint enjoying the riches of his heavenly home. But I suspect that fewer than one in a ten of those who bought gifts for their lovers today know anything at all about this 3rd-century Roman saint. Martyred under Emperor Claudius II in the year 269, this priest and bishop was accused of encouraging young Christian couples to marry, contrary to an edict by the government. His martyrdom was brutal, a three-part torture that included beating, stoning and decapitation. 

The patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine knew full well that a loving life-long commitment to another involved both joy and suffering, a pairing many today cannot accept. Married life isn't always candy and flowers; sometimes it's broken coffee mugs and vacuuming and card tables. And sometimes it's worrying about paying the mortgage, or struggling to help a troubled child, or confronting unexpected unemployment, or coping with the reality that the one you've loved for a lifetime no longer recognizes you, or dealing with a serious illness that threatens the other's life. Love and marriage are a wonderful gift from our God, but they demand the radical humility of self-sacrifice -- and this, too, is a gift. 

Take a few minutes today to pray together with the one you love and give thanks to God for each other.

Happy St. Valentine Day!

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