Friday, February 14, 2014

An Odd Saint Valentine's Day....

This Saint Valentine's Day is unlike any other in my and Keith's 30+ year relationship.

I won't be seeing him today.

Since his dad (who is 82) had knee replacement surgery just before Thanksgiving and also has been struggling with the progression of his Parkinson's disease, Keith has been spending anywhere from two to five nights per week in Ramona. Fortunately, Keith's brother, who built a house adjoining his family's large home for their parents (although their Mom died before it was completed), has quite a long to-do list for Keith to tackle, paying him a discounted rate to build a storage shed and a treehouse for their kids (two of their kids have already graduated from high school, so this fun place is for their three younger ones, ages 8-11), to begin with. In addition to being there to keep watch over his dad and to work on Kevin's projects. Keith has also been helping the younger kids with their chores and homework when they get home from school since they're often alone until dinner time.

And Keith left yesterday to spend last night and tonight in Ramona; he'll be home Saturday evening.

So we're apart for Saint Valentine's Day.

Since 1997, it has been our family tradition to take the grandkids to my parents' house for pizza and ice cream sundaes on Valentine's Day while we "parents" enjoy an evening out. We began this tradition after my mom's father died on Valentine's Day in 1996, and she wanted her grandchildren with her on the anniversary of his death. The kids still get out the craft stuff and create Valentine's Day cards while Keith and I and my siblings and their spouses go out on our dates.

So tonight we're still heading to Pacific Beach to spend the evening with my parents; I'll just be staying there for the pizza and sundaes, too.

Last night I wrote out Valentine's cards for the kids, writing each one a personal note of encouragement and affirmation with a different Scripture verse for each, telling them how much they are loved (and also set two large Reese's Hearts on each of their placemats). Elizabeth made everyone cool Star Wars Valentines with a glo-stick attached as a light saber, along with a small box of Valentine's Nerds (my favorite non-chocolate candy) and three Ghiradelli milk chocolate-caramel squares. Yum!

But family traditions aside, this day is special because of the love of one man, Saint Valentine, and his dedication to God. I found a very interesting history of Saint Valentine's Day at the History Channel site. Following are excerpts from that history:

Every February, across the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day — and its patron saint — is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl — who may have been his jailor's daughter — who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February — Valentine's Day — should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap."
And from a website called Women for Faith and Family comes additional information about Saint Valentine's Day and a call to "re-Christianize" this holy day:
The popular customs connected with Saint Valentine's Day's probably originated in medieval Europe. At that time, when "courtly love" was in flower, there was a common belief in England and France that on February 14th, precisely half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair.

Thus, we read in the 14th century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer's "Parliament of Foules":

For this was on Seynt Valentynes' day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
(Chaucer's original spelling).

This belief about "love-birds" is probably the reason Saint Valentine's feast day came to be seen as specially consecrated to lovers, and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lover's tokens. The literature of the fourteenth and fifteenth-century in both France and England contain allusions to this practice.

This association with romantic love, along with the medieval revival of interest in classic literature, no doubt led to the "paganizing" of this martyr's feast, so that the Roman god, Cupid (the counterpart of Eros in Greek mythology), supplanted the saint in the celebration of the feast. In Roman mythology, Cupid, the son of Venus, was a winged immortal who had the mischievous habit of shooting invisible arrows into the hearts of mortals, which inflamed them with blind and helpless passion -- for the next person they might see.

The Golden Legend, a medieval book of stories about saints, says that Valentine, a priest, was imprisioned by the emperor Claudius II for leading people to Christ. While Valentine was being interrogated by a Roman officer, the priest preached Christ as the "one and only Light". The officer, who had a blind daughter, challenged Valentine to pray to Christ for her cure. The girl was cured, and the entire family were converted to Christianity. According to legend, while awaiting execution, he wrote notes of instruction, affection and encouragement to the Christian community in Rome, which were secretly delivered by a boy who visited him in prison.

It is ironic that a Roman Christian who died defending the faith is now chiefly associated with a pagan god, Cupid.

I would like to close with a prayer for Saint Valentine's Day:

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wishing you all a blessed remembrance of Saint Valentine and of Christ's command to "Love one another,"

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