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A call to married couples to skip the temporal trappings of Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) and bank on the sanctifying, strengthening sacrifices of World Marriage Day (Feb. 8).
BY Joseph Pronechen
Our world so
emphasizes the romantic and sensual aspects of marital love that each
Valentine’s Day we feel we must give our spouse a Hallmark moment to remember —
So says Augustine Institute theology
professor Edward Sri, in so many words. He’s the author of Men,
Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights From John Paul II’s Love and
Responsibility (Servant, 2007).
Sri’s insights are worth considering
not only on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, but also six days prior: It’s on Feb. 8
that Worldwide Marriage Encounter marks World Marriage Day by offering
resources to help celebrate marriage for a day and strengthen it for a
lifetime. (For details, go to wmd.wwme.org.)
As integral engines of the culture
of life, married couples can help bring the sanctity back into Saint
Valentine’s Day, says the professor.
“The tradition about the great St. Valentine
can speak to an authentic understanding of love,” explains Sri. Tradition holds
that Valentine of Rome was a priest, possibly a physician and perhaps a bishop,
who was beaten and martyred around 269, after aiding Christians imprisoned for practicing
“In the essence of love, we will
find sacrifice,” says Sri.
While there’s certainly nothing
wrong with flowers, chocolates and candlelit dinners, he adds, “Catholic
couples can consider in what ways they can grow in sacrificial love in
imitation of St. Valentine. Husbands and wives can ask themselves how they can
give more of themselves in service to their spouse.”
“To die to myself and my comforts in
order to do what’s best for my spouse” — therein lies the key to living out the
sacrament of matrimony as a true vocation, he says.
Christopher West, the popular
author, speaker and fellow at Theology of the Body Institute, has another
practical suggestion: “Married couples should read the Song of Songs together.”
His latest book, Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as It
Was Meant to Be (Ascension Press, 2008), can help flesh out the full
meaning of King Solomon’s sometimes-difficult Old Testament love poem. Like
nearly all of West’s work, Heaven’s Song
presents Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body in lay language.
Kimberly Hahn’s latest entry in her
“Life-Nurturing Love” series for women is Chosen and Cherished: Biblical
Wisdom for Your Marriage (Servant Books, 2007). “It is so important
to continue to romance, to have dates, because the core relationship of the
family is the marriage,” she told the Register. “The greatest way to love your
child besides loving God first and foremost is to really love your spouse.”
This year, Valentine’s Day falls on
a Saturday. That makes it “the perfect day to commemorate the religious aspects
of the feast of St. Valentine’s Day with special time as a couple,” says Lisa
Hendey, founder of CatholicMom.com and a blogger at the Register’s sister
“For couples who live relatively
close to the church where they celebrated the sacrament of matrimony, St.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to return to that church for a simple
reaffirmation of your wedding vows,” she adds. “Attend Mass together on
Valentine’s Day, and then spend a few quiet moments after Mass in prayer for
one another and your marriage.”
Deacon Pat Hayes, author of Top
Ten Ways to Build a Wonderful Marriage (Bezalel Books, 2008), urges
couples to “give each other the gift of your faith” for Valentine’s Day. He suggests
a simple exercise for starters:
Husband and wife write out three
questions apiece — one question per sheet of paper. They fold the six sheets
and place them in a hat or small box. Then “go somewhere special where you
won’t be disturbed by your family or your to-do list” to pray, draw and answer
the questions, says the deacon.
“Make the answers honest and from
your heart,” he continues. “Listen closely without comment as your spouse
speaks — Jesus is speaking to you.”
Hayes and his wife, Susanne, offer
some possible questions: Describe your
relationship with Jesus. Where or when do you feel closest to God? Do you pray
for our children and family members? Are you concerned about their relationship
World Marriage Day kicks off “Valentine’s week,” couples who have never
experienced Marriage Encounter should “de--cide to go on Valentine’s weekend to
enhance their marriage,” suggest Dick and Diane Baumbach of Florida, regional
leaders of Worldwide Marriage Encounter (wwme.org).
of the couples then recall that closeness and intimacy they experience during
Marriage Encounter when they come for a holiday such as Valentine’s Day,” says
Dick. Adds Diane, “It brings them closer together.”
Little Things Mean a Lot
big the bouquet, how impressive the dinner? Back off and be simpler.” That’s
the advice of Tom and Katie Watson of Denver, members of Worldwide Marriage
Encounter’s national board. In 35 years of marriage, they’ve learned not to go
overboard with gifts and getaways. Instead, they make time to talk about their
dreams and hopes.
They also go to Mass. “That’s a
special holy time we enjoy,” says Tom. And it carries throughout the year.
“There’s not a time when we’re not at Mass together. Couple prayer is important
for us, even praying to St. Valentine to ask him to intercede for us.”
The Watsons search out a place that
serves the Chicago-style foods they ate together when they were dating. This
simple custom “reminds us of the times we didn’t have a whole lot,” says Tom,
“but we had each other.”
One Valentine’s Day, the Watsons
joined 15 other couples for a wine-and-cheese social. The corks weren’t popped
until after the group had recited the Rosary, making sure to include in their
intentions thanks to God for the blessings of marital unity.
Brenda Cerkez, executive director of Family Honor in Columbia, S.C.,
(online at FamilyHonor.org): What
matters more — a bouquet of flowers once a year or the assurance that you’re
secure in the love of your spouse all year long?
more important is how you’re treating your spouse on a daily basis,”
says Cerkez. “If you believe the family is the first school of love, then every
day should be Valentine’s Day.”
writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.