I, for one, am quite happy with the concurrence of Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day. Partly because, as a widower, St. Valentine’s Day already had a penitential feel for me and I had originally met my wife just before St. Valentine’s Day. Although, it is one more thing for me to work on repenting of, to wish others a more penitential day in honor of the saint.
In other ways, it is highly appropriate that it coincides with a feast of a martyr for the faith. The secular appropriation of this saint to sell chocolates, flowers, and jewelry has been on the increase for centuries. The traditions of love notes and printed cards were popular in the sixteenth century, and people have built on this with more additions.
A day focusing on romantic love is a good in itself. A day concentrating on the love of God shown by a martyr, even more so. The martyr takes the gloss off of false views of love that are situated only in feelings. The threats of the world will not separate them from their intense love of God. A giving of self that is and should be a mirror of romantic love.
When Lent starts, speaking for myself, I think of mostly trivial things I will give up. The saint grows to remove the limits of what he will give up. The purification that does not see the loss of attachments in terms of things to “give up”, but as barriers tossed aside to grow in union with God.
On the first day of my trip to Rome last year, we visited the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Located in the Forum Boarium, the foundation of this church might go back to 3rd century, or even earlier. As I was walking around this Basilica, I came across this altar with the skull of St. Valentine and took this picture.
I had seen pictures of this reliquary before, and in the past I had posted pictures of it with the caption “Happy St. Valentine’s Day.” Being in the presence of this reliquary and reflecting on the reality of this martyr’s death was an opposite reaction for me to my trolling for grins on social media.
Getting back to my liking the concurrence of Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day, I suspect it is because of my antipathy for this day, as Charlie Brown documented for me.