Saint Valentine was an early Christian martyr who was put to death during the Roman persecution of 269AD. His Feast Day was established by Pope Gelasius in 496AD. It was not until the 14th and 15th centuries, however, that his name became associated with romantic love. Tradition has it that he restored the sight of a young woman, the daughter of his jailer. Before his execution, he wrote her a letter that was signed “Your Valentine.” Such are the legends that undergird Valentine’s Day today.
Regardless of its history, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to tell people in our lives that we love them. Hallmark and Godiva think that this should be all about romantic love but we know that true love is much broader. Love is about putting into action the true good of people who are part of the fabric of our lives. While greeting cards, chocolates, and flowers are wonderful for some relationships, more powerful expressions are found in the ways that we reach out to one another with true understanding, thoughtfulness, and empathy.
The greatest gift that we can give to one another is the gift of our time. In-person meetings have been curtailed by the ongoing pandemic but this need not limit phone conversations that have been pushed out of our lives by texting and email. Robocalls complicate this picture but need not prevent us from picking up the phone and connecting with old friends, especially people who may be alone during this Covid-19 wasteland.
Spending time on the phone with someone who has lost a loved one may be a hard thing to do. It may also be a life-giving gift at a most difficult time. Because we all carry our own pains and losses, this may increase its difficulty. Empathetic conversations, however, may help us to transform our own pain and prevent us from transmitting it to others. This is why love is a two-way street. We are enriched by what we give and the beneficiaries of our own generosity.