I always make a point of greeting people with the full name of this day - it is the day we honor Saint Valentine, a Catholic priest who defied the authorities and helped to administer the Sacrament of Marriage despite that being against the law. For this Catholic Out Loud, it is important to witness to people that his courage is what makes this day important - not chocolate hearts or frilly cards shaped like a heart. It is the heart of a Catholic Martyr, a man who looked evil in the eye and said, "I serve the True Master and not a False god".
I am called to do that today and I don't know if I am very good at that calling.
I think part of my trouble is I do not suffer fools lightly - in that way I relate well to St Jerome - and so become instantly suspicious of people who deny historical,verifiable reality. What is there problem? Are they being deliberately obtuse or has their hatred for my kind so blinded them they refuse to see the truth?
Hard to tell.
I don't get too worried about them, however, as my experience is they are doomed to being fools forever. They will gather documents that testify to their great feats of learning but fools they shall remain.
And lucky for them, God protects Fools, Drunks and children.
I share this prayer with you today in honor of the great man and martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome:
I find myself heartbroken
by the hatred I see all around me.
So I ask that I may never forget :
That behind every brown, yellow, red, black or white face, there is a family like mine, and souls trying to live in a world that often tells them they are less than or unworthy, aliens that are not wanted. May I never lose sight of the soul behind each face, the souls of Your children.
That behind every homeless person there is a story that may be so familiar to me as to be uncomfortable. May I never be comfortable until there are no more homeless faces seeking a kind word, or an opportunity, or just a smile and a little love.
That I never forget the truth of Your gospel, that storing up riches here, withholding from others out of some misguided sense of superiority or right to judge, that treating any one of Your children as unworthy to come to Your table is not the Christian love You came to teach us.
That I count as treasures the friends who stand beside me, encouraging, loving, supporting and accepting me, through word and deed. Sometimes just being available, sometimes through prayer, sometimes through sacrifice of their own. Let me never take them for granted, and always see them as the blessing You meant them to be, and do my very best to love them as well as they have loved me.
That when I see actions or hear words that mean harm to the 'other', to never stand still or be quiet in the face of injustice, cruelty, racism, to call out behavior that seeks to harm my neighbor. To always see in each face the potential of a child of God no matter how I might disagree with their manner or actions. To protect those who are being shunned, criticized, or even threatened because they are considered different.
That I appreciate the love and devotion shown to me by my pets. The unconditional adoration that radiates from the soul of our animal friends is surely sent from heaven, through souls that speak a different language, one of complete acceptance. It is no small thing for an animal to love a person. May I always remember those gone on to You to await our reunion.
That I see and cherish each small blessing, from a spontaneous hug given by a grandchild, to a moment of clarity when I realize that my grown children love and understand me despite my obvious imperfections, a gesture or look from a husband who shows devotion and commitment each day, an unexpected phone call or card from someone reminding me that I matter, to the sunset, birdsong, moonlight, joyous bark or laugh that sweeten my life.
That I never find myself so blinded by my illness or difficulties that I forget those around me, and around the world, who hurt, hunger, shiver, grieve and strive for rights denied them by oppression and greed.
That I take every opportunity to let the wonders of Your creation heal and uplift me. Knowing that something as simple as sunshine on my face, sand and waves under my feet, regal treetop canopies, a bird in flight or the beauty of horses galloping across a field can be proof of Your love for Your world.
That I always, always remember that color, creed, faith or none, accent, sex, age, language, dress, orientation, hairstyle, home, or financial status has not one thing to do with the worth of anyone to You, and to follow your example.
That above all the chaos and upset in this world, You gave us the greatest Gift the world has ever known. You loved us then, and love us now, that much. May we all continue to grow and journey toward the greatest we can be for You, and because of You.
That I do all I can to give my children an grandchildren an example of the power and light of Your love in my life. That I always do my very best to be a light for Your world, to honor and respect each individual I meet, no matter our differences. That I grow into the person You wish me to be.
Kimberly J. Edwards, author.