Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: Valentine’s Day: Not just for lovers
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Feb. 5, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Valentine’s Day is the biggest celebration of romance and love in our culture. Sweethearts go out to dinner and exchange gifts. School children send Valentine’s Day cards, and almost everyone eats heart shaped candies. This is an ideal date for married couples to take time for themselves and nurture their relationship. It’s an important reminder that love needs feeding and care to thrive. But this holiday is also a wonderful opportunity to reach out to those who lack love or even companionship in their lives.
There are varying stories about the origin of Valentine’s Day. One of the most well-known tells us the day was named for a priest imprisoned and killed by the Roman government because he was Christian. As the story goes, Valentine became a friend with the daughter of his jailer. Knowing he would die, he sent her a farewell message signed, “From your Valentine.” He died in 269 CE on Feb. 14, the day ancient Romans honored Juno, the goddess of women and marriage.
This friendship between a young unnamed girl and a priest known for his kindness, faith and courage can be a model for celebrating Valentine’s Day in the spirit of Jesus.
Choose a small act of kindness you can do for someone who is lonely. This might be a widowed neighbor, a single relative or friend, a recently divorced member of your parish or a stranger in a nursing home. Sending a store-bought Valentine may be all you have time for, but it could mean a lot to someone who rarely gets anything but junk mail. If you have more time, considering making a few homemade Valentines with your children or baking and delivering cookies.
Consider sending Valentine greetings to teenagers staying at a homeless shelter like Crosswalk at 525 W. 2nd Ave. in Spokane. You could add real warmth to your holiday wishes by attaching a gift of a pair of socks or gloves. Ask friends or your church youth group to join your efforts.
A visit to prisoners at your local jail or prison befits the spirit of the original St. Valentine and has the potential to have a huge impact on your teenager. Visiting prisoners is one of the corporal works of mercy listed in the Gospel of Matthew of which Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.”
However, this is likely to take a bit more paperwork in modern times than it did in Jesus’ day. You must first undergo a background check that could take more than two weeks. If your parish does not have a jail ministry team, begin by calling Providence Sister Myrta Iturriaga, the head of prison ministry for the Diocese of Spokane: 509-358-7315. She can get you started on the paperwork required. Consider linking up with a prison chaplain who will be able to advise you about how best to interact with those incarcerated. Going along on regular rounds or attending a pre-scheduled Mass with the chaplain might be easiest for first-time visitors.
Whether you’ve been married five, 25, or 45 years, consider signing up for the next Marriage Encounter weekend, scheduled for March 5-7. ME is a wonderful tool for couples who have a good marriage and want to continue to grow in their relationship and deepen their love. The married couples presenting this March weekend in Spokane are dynamite examples of both romantic love and practical commitment. To register call 509-484-LOVE.
Perhaps these ideas seem too difficult or time-consuming for your busy family. If so, pick one small thing you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the spirit of Christian love. A small step is better than no step at all. The germ of an idea may take root and grow. I’ve been thinking about taking my family on a prison visit for a couple years. You never know; this could be the year I finally do it.
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)