A Catholic Approach to St. Valentine’s Day

Sara and Justin Kraft

A Catholic Approach to St. Valentine’s Day

Today, St. Valentine is associated with love and romance. However, what we really know of the life of St. Valentine is not certain. There are numerous stories which include a mixture of legend and truth. The composite story may actually refer to stories from the lives of two saints named Valentine (this was a fairly common name in his day). 

Why is Valentine Associated with Romance?

Just like the saint’s own life, the origin of Valentine’s Day is also unclear. One story indicates that Valentine was imprisoned for officiating Christian marriages (a serious offence during the Roman persecution of Christians).  During his imprisonment, he actually began to form a relationship with the Roman Emperor Claudius. However, this relationship ended in his death when he tried to convince the Emperor Claudius to convert. Refusing to renounce Christ, he was martyred. While this story likely serves as the foundation of the connection, the strong association between Valentine and romance we have today is more likely an outgrowth of the middle ages

A Catholic Approach to Valentine’s Day.

In modern times, Valentine’s day has been heavily commercialized. The day is filled with many expectations. Most of them involve imaginative expressions of love or escapes from everyday activities. 

The name Valentine (or Valentinus) was a common surname in the Roman empire. It comes from the Latin root “valens” which means “strong”, “healthy”, or “worthwhile”. I would like to propose that this definition can serve as the foundation of a “Catholic” approach to Valentine’s day. Rather than a day of escapism, Christians should approach Valentine’s day differently. 

I offer that the Christian approach is to spend all our strength pursuing worthwhile actions in support of our loved ones. If this is done well, we will no doubt be blessed with healthy and vibrant relationships. Therefore, I encourage all lovers to fill the day with selfless acts for it is from selfless acts that true love is made. 

It is true that selfless acts are often less recognized (and initially less appreciated) than love poems or grand gestures, but selfless acts are more enduring. 
This point was recently impressed upon me while watching a re-run of one of my favorite sitcoms, The Goldbergs. The Goldbergs tells the story of young Adam Goldberg and his family. Adam is a young boy who dreams of being a movie director and is constantly filming the goings on within the household. The show is actually based on the true family of Adam Goldberg the producer/director of the series and each episode is based on a real event from his childhood. 

In this particular episode, Adam’s parents, Murray and Beverly (Bev), are fighting because Murray is not romantic. The fight starts when a box of love letters to Murray’s old girlfriend/fiancé is discovered in the garage and the confrontation is brought to a head when Bev discovers that her wedding ring was a regift of the ring originally purchased by Murray for his previous fiancé. Murray then proceeds to buy Bev a new ring as a grand gesture, but the ring is only purchased to alleviate Bev’s fury and not a real act of love. As such, it only increases the strife. 

Near the end of the episode, Murray laments to Adam that he will never be able to show Bev his truly romantic actions. To this, Adam responds that he thinks he can. The episode resolves when Adam makes his mother (Bev) a movie of the everyday things Murray does. This includes Murray running out the door to carry the groceries when Bev returns from the store, Murray giving his dessert to Bev because she doesn’t have any, and Murray rubbing Bev’s feet at the end of a long day. In this moment, Bev realizes that small selfless acts are more enduring and more important than poems and grand gestures. 

So I encourage you this Valentine’s day, commit yourself to showing your loved ones how much they mean to you not by grand gestures, but by small selfless acts that you can continue to do day after day.