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St. Valentine, Love, and Marriage

“My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.  For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come…let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your countenance is lovely.’”  Song of Solomon 3:10-12a, 14b.

Who was St. Valentine and why has his day remained popular for so many centuries?  One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

 During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

In the most recent issue of Touchstone, Anthony Esolen describes in a powerful, prophetic manner why we need a reawakening of this ancient tradition in our time.

“In 1970, there were more than 426,300 Catholic marriages in the U.S., then a country of 205.1 million people.  In 2021, there were 97,000 Catholic marriages, in a country of 329.5 million people.  Put those two statistics together, and you have a collapse of 86 percent.  And that does not capture the whole of the problem.  It understates it considerably.  It passes by the 40 percent of American children born out of wedlock, with all the terrible pathalogies that go along with fatherlessness…The sexual revolution really is the Lonely Revolution, whereby we live as if we were meant to be islands unto ourselves, especially during the years of our greatest social energy and joy…The stunning and disheartening thing is that marriage itself is fading fast, in numbers, in social influence, in political power, and in the hearts and imaginations of all people, even among those who attend religious services.

What we have now is, I believe, the worst calamity to befall mankind since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and sought their good from themselves, or from a mere created thing, rather than from God.  I do not mean that we are the worst sinners the world has known.  I mean that as terrible as human history has often been, with plague and famine and war, man has never, in principle, denied his own sexual being.  Never has it been assumed that the interests of the sexes were severable, that man was not for woman and woman was not for man.

That is the essential feminist lie, which until recently could get no traction, for the simple reason that people needed to survive from one winter to the next, and so the sexes could hardly pretend to get on without one another.  That is still the case, I believe, but our wealth and our technology insulate us from feeling the lie’s consequences so directly and severely.

Marriage, then, is a necessity.  But marriages do not simply happen – certainly not in our time.  We must raise boys and girls determinedly, to form young men and young women eager and ready for marriage…

We may dare to add a verse to our Lord’s promise and warning: “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” I imagine him saying, “possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For my cousin was single, and you found her a husband.  I was single, and you found me a wife.”

Through our prayers, words and actions, may we be among those who strive to rekindle the fire of love that fears not the commitment and self-sacrifice required of Holy Marriage as we actively encourage young people in our circles of influence to embrace this estate for their own good, and for the good of the church and world that may not be so quick to mock miracles when it sees them on a more regular basis.

In His love that is stronger than death, Pastor Paul Becker

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