Of St Valentine’s Day and Being Too Serious

Every year on this day I face a conundrum. The Church invites us to celebrate SS Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs, patrons of Europe and, whisper it softly, just a teeny weeny bit dull (I refer to the liturgy of the day rather than the men themselves). Meanwhile, the rest of the western world is celebrating St Valentine and love in all its forms with masses of pink ribbon, chocolates and wine. For those who don’t have a valentine, who are lonely or feel a bit vulnerable, it can be a difficult day. I think it is made more difficult still by those joyless Christians who are a little too earnest in their condemnation of others’ pleasures. My Catholic soul rises up in revolt when they attack the roses and romance and mutter darkly about love needing to be general rather than particular. It is a great mistake to think we love everyone because we are incapable of loving any individual. We forget what we learned at our mother’s breast, that love is particular before it can be general; and it never ceases to be particular to some degree, for how else will you explain the gift of friendship, for example?

The readiness of some Christians to condemn others is a very unattractive trait, but especially so when it concentrates on minor matters. We may think the world would be a better place if people did not eat meat or drink wine, but to censure those who do is preposterous and ignores the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ did both. I think we have become too serious about little things and not serious enough about big things. St Valentine’s day may have become a bit tacky and tawdry, but at its heart is a very Christian message: that love is better than hatred, joy better than gloom, and we need to get along with one another as well as we can. Can anyone really object to that?

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