I remember being put out as a kid whenever a holiday landed on a Sunday, be it Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or anything except Easter, I suppose, which will always be a Sunday holiday. My understanding of Sunday holidays was basically that all the fun stuff we would be doing if the holiday landed on a weekday was replaced with, well, church, and nothing else. I knew my school class would still exchange Valentines the Friday before or the Monday after, but to my young romantic heart, this just wasn’t the same.
In 2016, we are celebrating Valentine’s Day on a Sunday, during Lent, a time of sacrifice and preparation for Easter Sunday. Even Latter-day Saints who don’t observe Lent will still be aware of sacrifices made this Valentine’s Day by abstaining from restaurant meals, date night at the movies, getting a babysitter, or basically anything else that includes paying money or distracting us from our active worship of God.
But perhaps spiritual worship and heavenward reflections ought to be the regular observance of Valentine’s Day, since the martyr (or martyrs, since there were possibly two different Valentines martyred on two different February 14ths) St. Valentine had much more to do with loving and reverencing Christ than he had to do with boxes of chocolates and dozens of roses.
Hagiography disagrees on who exactly Valentinus was, but most stories contain these common details:
- He performed the miracle of bringing sight to the blind; most versions of the story say he restored the sight of a young blind girl whose father was the judge or jailer imprisoning Valentine.
- He was imprisoned for marrying young Christian couples for whom it was illegal to marry under the reign of Claudius Gothicus, perhaps because young married men made poor soldiers. At any rate, the legend goes that Valentine performed many secret weddings, willing to disobey the law of the land and even to lay down his life in the name of love, marriage, and family.
- Refusing to deny his testimony of Christ, he was tortured and finally beheaded on February 14.
I don’t know if Valentine himself ever married—I actually don’t know all that much about third century Roman priests and if they practiced celibacy or not. Regardless, it strikes me as something profound that, as the story goes, Valentine put himself at risk not for his own passionate true love, but for the love of the young people around him for whom marriage was not allowed. He showed compassion by forming unions he hoped would last and be blessed with unions of people, communities of husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aged companions and great-grandbabies. He brought sight to the blind and blessed unions of love; he was beaten, beheaded, and martyred for these miracles.
Perhaps a more sober Valentine’s Day is good once in a while. This Lenten Valentine’s Sabbath Day, I will consider Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and atonement, which was also made in the name of love, community, sisterhood and brotherhood.
So whether you have that Special Someone to spend a romantic weekend with, or a group of girlfriends you bought Galentine’s presents for, or even if you’ve written this weekend on your calendar as S.A.D. (Singles’ Awareness Day), we can all do as the “real” St. Valentine did and seek out opportunities to honor, cherish, and celebrate the love we see around us, in all of its colors and flavors and degrees. What a great Sabbath day it will be to spend more time appreciating the friends and families in the pews around me than focusing solely on keeping my own little children quiet. In the spirit of Valentine, we should seek to reach out and make new connections between neighbors and acquaintances, even at the sacrifice of the habits and routines that separate us from one another. This is a Sabbath-worthy venture that will end up being more satisfying than a bag of chocolate truffles and a Hallmark card, anyway.
Accompanying this post is the song, “Can it Be that I Should Gain Amazing Love,” an early 18th-century hymn, sung by an Indian church choir.
Valentine’s Day Sunday during Lent
The Collect: We are grateful for love, companionship, family, and hope. Please bless us in our desires to strengthen our love for one another, to love each other more perfectly and honestly. Please help us to spread our love to those who feel alone or companionless. Help us to create bonds, ties, links, webs, and unions with all around us, that our communities might be warm and full of joy and understanding. Help us to reach out and be reached. Help us in our desires to live as Christ lived, and love as He loved, Amen.