St Valentine does not appear in the revised monastic calendar. His place is taken by SS Cyril and Methodius and a series of dull, but worthy, Office readings about the importance of Church Slavonic and unity. Just occasionally, belonging to a global church has its longeurs. While we dutifully ponder the feat of developing an alphabet to cope with the Slav dialects, the rest of the world is eating over-priced chocolates to the accompaniment of sentimental music and the scent of wilting red roses — which, to my way of thinking, is probably worse. But for every joyous couple celebrating their love for one another, there is someone for whom St Valentine’s Day is an awkward reminder that they are no one’s True Love. For them, this is a day (and even more, an evening) to be spent miserably alone, lamenting what they lack. Encouraging talk about being precious to Christ cuts no ice. The lonely are lonely, and there’s no getting away from it.
If there is no getting away from the fact of loneliness, perhaps we can turn it round and embrace it. God never asks what he does not give, but we do not always understand the Giver or the gift. What we see as a lack is sometimes the only way in which we can truly become what we are meant to be. The single vocation is not often recognized for what it is: a unique way of being a disciple, and one that requires more courage than marriage or community life because it is lived alone. Lived stingily, it can turn one in on oneself, making one constantly harp on what one has not; lived generously, it can make one a source of blessing and encouragement to others. Today, let’s pray especially for all the single men and women who enrich the lives of others without claiming anything for themselves.