All month long, I’ve written and posted about love. I’ve touched on romantic love, self-love, and the love between mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters. I’ve talked about our Father’s love more than once. What I haven’t mentioned is the love between a daughter and her father, a love which I happen to think transcends all other types of earthly love as a reflection of the love between a daughter and Our Father.
Pope John Paul II said, “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.” How true that is.
It took my parents several years to have me. Just as they were in the throes of adoption, I gave them the surprise they’d been praying for. By then, my father, at thirty-three, was a little older than most first-time fathers of the time. Of course, I didn’t realize this until much later in life; but now I am reminded every day how truly blessed I am to still have him with us at eighty-four (eighty-five in April).
Growing up, my father was loved and adored by everyone, which was no surprise as he was always a kid at heart, and he has a heart the size of a mountain.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. While the world has turned the holiday into nothing more than a day to spend money on Hallmark cards and expensive chocolates, it’s actually a day to celebrate those you love. Last week, I had the pleasure of witnessing eight couples renew their wedding vows at the site of the wedding feast of Cana. I remembered when Ken and I had that same beautiful opportunity three years ago. I felt so blessed, each time, to stand with couples who realize that marriage is something to be obtained, maintained, and sustained, through good times and bad.
In the 3rd Century, Roman King Claudius II outlawed weddings as he believed that marriage led soldiers to distraction, and he wanted all men to become soldiers. Valentine was a Catholic priest who secretly married couples and was eventually thrown into jail and executed for refusing to renounce his faith. While in jail, Valentine befriended the jailer, whom he converted, and began teaching the jailer’s young daughter. Before his death, Valentine wrote a note to the young girl, encouraging her to stay close to Jesus. Thus began the tradition of sending notes on Valentine’s Day, a tradition that dates back to the 5th Century when it replaced the Roman festival of Lupercalia. It was thought that a day to celebrate true love was far better than the practice of celebrating spring and fertility by pairing off men and women through a lottery! Though I have to wonder, have things really changed all that much since the 5th Century?
I hear it all the time–the way to meet someone today is through an online dating site. I’m not knocking online dating. I know some couples who were paired by the magic matching algorithm and are quite happy. For some, it’s the best and easiest way to meet a companion or future spouse. For others, it leads to peril and abuse. An article in the Huffington Post points out the drawbacks of online dating. Among them: treating people as mere commodities, lack of willingness to commit, and the possibility of harassment and stalking. The potential for danger when meeting up with someone you only know online is terrifying for this mother of three young women.
I can’t help but wonder if part of the lure of meeting online is because we have become a society where showing any interest in a person of the opposite sex is automatically seen as harassment. After all, in today’s world, how can you let someone know you are interested in them without a) offending them or b) sending a signal that all you want is sex?
Here’s the other thing I think about when recalling the story of Saint Valentine. He was a man who was willing to die to protect the right to marry. Moreover, couples were willing to be imprisoned or killed for love. It would have been much easier for couples to engage in sex or live together without bothering with marriage, but that’s not what they wanted. They understood the importance of marriage, the sanctity of it, and the beauty of being husband and wife. It makes me sad that so many people today choose not to be married.
According to a recent analysis at the University of Maryland, more millennials are staying married after they’ve said, “I do.” Unfortunately, while the divorce rate among post-baby-boomers is decreasing, the amount of people tying the knot has dropped. More people are choosing to remain single, and more couples are choosing to co-habitate. A large part of these decisions is economic stability. College-educated adults are more likely to marry because they can afford to have a family and can afford to make the choice to stay home to raise their children. Marriage has become more of a status symbol and less of a natural progression of love and fidelity. Brides and grooms are getting older, and the amount of children they are bearing is lessening.
What would Saint Valentine think of our world and relationships today? Would he shake his head, perhaps even shed a tear, over modern views of marriage? If marriage was outlawed, or even just looked down upon, would he still risk his life or reputation to marry those who seek his help? Would people even bother? Would they risk their lives, their reputations, their self-reliance and pride, to take vows to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do them part?
As the sacred author tells us in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” And as is affirmed in Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”
Saint Valentine knew that men and women need each other and that marriage is not merely a way to bolster one’s status but a commitment made to each other and to God. May all of you, and your loved ones, have a very happy Valentine’s Day.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.