After the past week and a half, it seems quite fitting that today is Valentine’s Day. A day of love, and, for some, a day of sadness.
If today is one of those days that makes you miss someone or lament the fact that your love is shunned publicly, take comfort in the fact that you are loved by a very large group of people – the human people. The human people all love one another and we all have a stake in one another’s well-being. As my friend, Andre, told me on Monday – “we are all related.” Andre is a vendor for Article 25, a progressive news source found on the streets of Cincinnati. When Andre made this statement he was referring to the flood – you know the one, the one with Noah and the animals? That flood.
Andre believes that a flood happened because hundreds of cultures have a similar story to the one found in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. I wasn’t there, I don’t know if there was a flood or not, so, for the purposes of this post, I am willing to accept the flood.
You see, after the flood, there were only two humans and a bunch of animals. Due to this fact, Andre claims, quite adamantly, that we are all related. I like that idea.
Even if the flood never happened, I have, for many years, felt a kinship to most every person I see. I think it is simply because I like people and want to learn what they have to teach me. I like human beings, what with all of their flaws, insecurities, dreams and exertions of strength. People make me strong – especially people with whom I disagree on topics of religion, sexuality and politics. It is these people who give me opportunities to practice patience, non-judgment and acceptance – three things that are quite difficult indeed for any person to practice. I love practicing them – for, when I do, I feel that I grow in love.
So, what is this elusive word, “love,” all about?
Well, I would never pretend that I know as it certainly evolves over time (at least for me). The love I feel for Katie is a love that keeps the world in order – the love I feel for my students is a love that gives me direction – the love I feel for the marginalized in our communities is a love that gives me definition – the love I feel for those who have, throughout my life, tried to block me, distract me or even silence me is a love that challenges.
Are any of these loves more valid than any of the others? Are any stronger than the rest? After taking Katie out of the equation, I would say, “no.” I need all of these loves to bring peace to myself and others in a world that is constantly trying to disrupt that peace.
Since 1969, St. Valentine has not received universal liturgical commemoration in the Church. This is because there was not enough documentation on Valentine’s actual life to confirm who he really was. All people know is that some guy, Valentine, had been associated with the Medieval idea of courtly love.
However, Valentine is still officially recognized by the Church for local veneration.
Some scholars believe that Valentine was actually two people – maybe three (very similar to the Shakespearean scholars who feel the same about William). Some say he was a priest, a bishop or a saint who suffered with many companions in the Roman province in Africa.
One of the most widely accepted and popular versions of the Valentine story is that he was a Roman priest during the reign of Claudius II. He was arrested and imprisoned because he was marrying Christian couples without Rome’s permission. Helping Christians was quite frowned upon during this time. In fact, helping certain groups of people all throughout history has been frowned upon – the frowning remains the same, the group changes.
So, today let’s “locally venerate” love and Valentine in our varied communities. Let’s take it one step further – let’s venerate not only those groups that we wish weren’t frowned upon, let’s show some love for those who do the frowning. In the end, they are the ones who need the most love.
In closing, I would just like to say that I love you, Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I really do. Maybe, in love, we can change the conversation.