Long after the flowers and chocolates are gone

I waited with great anticipation as Sister Mary Anthony passed out the envelopes. She stopped in front of each desk and dropped off a good number of envelopes until she got to mine. She handed me two envelopes! I remember being sad and embarrassed as I looked around, squirreled down in my seat and opened the two envelopes. One was from my best friend Maureen and the other from my friend Bob. You never know where you stand in popularity until the day the envelopes are passed out and that year, I stood at the bottom of the pile. It’s no wonder that Valentine’s Day was one of my least favorite holidays!

As the years progressed, political correctness required you to send cards to everyone in the class or to no one. It was a way to keep those kids like me feeling like a loser. I wonder if it worked?

I pretty much ignored the holiday until I got married. Then Valentine’s Day caused thoughts of red roses, candy in heart-shaped boxes, winged cherubs shooting arrows to start swirling around in my head. What would I do to show my wife how much I loved her on that day? I recall one year purchasing her a dozen-AND-A-HALF roses and sent them to her office. It cost me around $100 and I was so sure that it would show my love without question. 

When she got home, I didn’t get the reaction I expected. She was upset that I spent so much money on flowers. I defended my gift as worth every dollar to show her how much I loved her. She, in plain language that only Kris can speak, told me that my unconditional love was shown to her every day — and nothing else was needed. I hope I’ve done that for most of our nearly 38 years of Marriage.

Thoughts of the upcoming Valentine’s Day caused me to do a little research on the holiday and what it means and what it could mean to us this year. I was interested to learn that the origin of Valentine’s Day (actually St. Valentine’s Day) comes from the life and death of a martyr. Valentine was a Roman Christian during the persecution of Christians in the third century. The emperor of the time declared Christians illegal citizens. Valentine was arrested. During his time in prison he was asked by a guard to pray for his blind daughter. As a result of those prayers, the girl’s sight was restored. The guard and his whole family of 46 people came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.

When the emperor heard that Valentine was still converting people while in prison he sentenced him to death. Just before being led out to be executed, Valentine wrote a note to the guard’s daughter urging her to stay close to God, signing it, “From Your Valentine.” So the very first valentine was really a witness to unconditional devotion to Christ even under the pain of death.

Having read about St. Valentine, I think I can now come to a new appreciation for the holiday. Not a day to count how many Valentine cards you receive, or tweets, texts, or Facebook notes you receive during the day, but a day to commemorate St. Valentine on the day he was executed for refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus. 

I’m not saying we should abandon all of the fun aspects of the holiday, but all too often in this world we secularize things to reduce their important meaning in our lives (like Christmas and Easter). Rather, this St. Valentine’s Day, remember you are loved, not only by friends and family, but also, and I dare say, most importantly, by God. God wants to be your valentine each and every day. God’s love is not like those flimsy Valentine’s cards or Tweets that will soon be discarded. He doesn’t choose to whom to give His Valentine; He gives it to each and every one of us. It is surely not like the love the world gives. It is the real thing. It is an unconditional love proven every day by His willingness to suffer and die for us. It is truly what real love is all about. 

Of course, the question now is, will you be God’s Valentine? Let’s pray! 

“God of love, thank You for those that I love, Let Your compassion, generosity, and power continue to shine in my life long after the flowers and chocolates are gone, that I and all whom I love might remember that You love us, now and always. Amen.” 

Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea and St. George Parish in Westport, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 39 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and three grandsons. So blessed! 

Comments, ideas or suggestions? Please email him at DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net

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