How I learned to love St. Valentine

By Julianne Stanz | Special to The Compass | February 8, 2017

Some people love Valentine’s Day. They decorate their houses, eat special Valentine’s candies and cakes and mail copious amounts of cards to their friends and family. Good for them.

I, however, am not one of them. In fact, for most of my life I despised Valentine’s Day.

As a child, I remember the angst leading up to Valentine’s Day and wondering if I would receive a card. In elementary school, we didn’t exchange Valentine’s cards like children do today and most of us girls were at the stage where boys were of little interest. Boys and cooties were synonymous! Yuck. Very few Valentine’s cards were sent in my elementary school.

This all changed, however, in middle and high school when I attended an all-girls school. Valentine’s Day was a fiasco. Those who received early Valentine’s cards smugly paraded into the class and left them on their desks for the rest of us to see. I lived in the country and had to get the bus home so I only knew if I got a Valentine’s card at dinner time when my mother would hand me the mail.

Those who had boyfriends met them at lunch and brought in the extravagant spoils of teenage courtship. We all pretended to “ooh” and “aah” over the promise rings, the flowers, the chocolates, the perfumes but secretly inside, the green eyed monster of jealousy was in a feeding frenzy. Like most of the girls in my class, we heaved a collective sigh of relief when the dreaded Valentine’s Day passed. We cheered when it fell on a weekend. I often scolded myself for this little quirk as each year I rebelled against the holiday. “Isn’t it supposed to be a feast day?” I asked. Wasn’t St. Valentine actually martyred for his faith? What do hearts and flowers have to do with all of this? I admit, I became a bit of a Valentine’s Grinch. There, I said it!

But every year I got a Valentine’s card, sometimes two if I was dating someone. It was only a couple of years ago that I figured out the real reason why I got what seemed to be the same card every year with the poem, “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you,” when I went home to Ireland to visit my parents. In their garage was a little suitcase with precious little mementos of my childhood — the card that my father gave my mother on the day of my birth, my first school exams and yes, Valentine’s cards — the cards that my parents had faithfully sent me through those awkward years of growing up.  My mother knew that her Valentine’s Grinch needed some love and every year took the time to remind me. It is only now that I realize that I missed her small act of love in the frenzy of Valentine’s consumerism. I missed the real reason for the season, if you will. Love.

So how should we as Catholics celebrate Valentine’s Day?

By keeping the focus on those you love, not just for one day but every day. Tell those you love that you love them, don’t wait a minute more. My mother has passed on but I still have those cards that she sent me. I treasure them.

Send a card, or flowers or chocolate if you want to. But don’t give in to the consumerism that runs rampant in our culture and erodes the real meaning of this day.

Besides Feb. 14, there are lots of other options to celebrate St. Valentine. You might choose to celebrate St. Valentine of Viterbo on Nov. 3 or St. Valentine of Raetia on Jan. 7. Or how about honoring the only female St. Valentine (Valentina), a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25, 308? Pick one and strive to get to know that particular saint.

St. Valentine is the patron of lovers and marriages, but also beekeepers, those suffering from epilepsy, the plague, those who faint and those who travel frequently. How about remembering all those who suffer from epilepsy and offering up a prayer for their healing? Or for those who have been disappointed in love?

So, for all those who don’t “love” Valentine’s Day, can you find a way to draw from your own wellspring of love and remember someone you love — in prayer or in person? Who knows? It might transform you from a Valentine’s Grinch into an actual Valentine!

Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”

Related Posts

Scroll to Top