|February 14 is a big day in 2018|
Google Free Images of Valentine's Day
Three Days in One
For the first time since 1945, Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday both land on February 14th. Do you, like me, find that an interesting alignment of days to commemorate?
In our family, we have a third event we celebrate on the 14th of February. This is the day our third adopted child, Jennifer Joanne, a.k.a. Jenny, became a member of our family.
The history of Valentine's Day is not well documented, but it is believed this once "holy day" was started in honour of St. Valentine, who was martyred for the Christian faith in 269 A.D. Valentine was known in the third century for his marrying of young couples who were in love. Perhaps because love wasn't the general prerequisite for marriage, this landed him in jail.
The jailer liked Valentine and they apparently got along fine until he tried to convert his overseer to Christianity. That got him beheaded. Valentine was fond of the jailer's daughter, a fellow believer. Before the axe fell, Valentine had given the young woman a card encouraging her to keep the faith. "From your Valentine," he signed.
Martyrdom is a far cry from the chocolates, gifts, cards and romantic excesses of the 21st century. Valentine's Day 2018 will also be a sharp contrast from the more sombre day of fasting, reflection and penance that is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
|Lovingly made by our granddaughter Abbie|
|Free Catholic Inspired Image|
For some of us this year, we may have to push or pull our Valentine's treats back to February 13th. Shrove Tuesday is observed in different ways and with different names depending on one's culture. Simply put, it's a day when dietary leniency is allowed before Lent begins. For many Christian traditions, the 13th, this year, would be a better day than Ash Wednesday to indulge in rich foods.
The ashes drawn in the shape of a cross are a symbol of our repentance or our dying to self and turning more toward living like Christ. The ashes are prepared beforehand by burning the blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday. During Lent, we are invited to renew our lives in Christ and to walk with him.
Jenny's Arrival Day
The third important occasion for our family on February 14th is the Arrival Day for our third adopted child, Jennifer Joanne a.k.a. Jenny. Imagine our joy at receiving a bouncing baby on Valentine's Day some years ago. Each of our three adult children were adopted as infants, so they each have a birthday and an arrival day.
When our kids were young, Arrival Day meant the child's choice of dinner prepared and served. The table was set with china and decorations prepared by the other two siblings. Arrival Day was a special day to express our love for and appreciation of this particular child.
Now that our young people are grown and away from home, we may not see them on the exact day of their arrival, but we at least talk by phone and try to see them around that time.
Three Love Stories in One Day
One common thread, and that is love, runs through this triptych of special commemorations--Valentine's Day, Ash Wednesday and our family's Arrival Days. But there is something else I noticed while writing this blog. In each of these love stories, a poignant or sorrowful side surfaced.
What is sorrowful about Valentine's Day? you may ask. Many people are lonely, homeless, broken-hearted, grieving for the loss of a loved one . . . We can't assume that everyone will be celebrating a loving, joyous holiday. Maybe some of you, my readers of this blog, are at a loss this February. We as writers don't know everyone's circumstance, but we can be sensitive to the possibility that the 14th may not feel special at all for some. We can ask ourselves if there is someone who needs a call, a card, a coffee or dinner buddy on this day.
Ash Wednesday is a solemn day and there is a sadness in this as well. God's loving act of saving us from our sins came at a price--the horrible death of his Son on a cross. Mary the Mother of Jesus watched the whole episode from the foot of the cross. Her suffering defies imagination and this is a sorrow only heaven can heal.
Even our loving experience of being blessed with three children has its sorrowful side. We are so thankful for our three children and the fact that our family of five has since grown into a family of thirteen. (God multiplies his giving.)
|Visiting Maligne Canyon with our kids during their teens|
Our children were brought into this world by birth parents who were at a place in their lives when it seemed impossible for them to raise these infants. We think of each birth mother who carried a child in her womb and went through pain to give birth. Then this young woman had a tough decision to make. Would she be able to raise this child? Was there a father to help her? What would be best for the child?
These young women each wrote a letter expressing their love for their child and their inability to raise the child in their present circumstances. They wrote of their hope for the child to be raised in a home with loving, and Christian, parents.
These expressions of love were sacred for us and for the children. We are proud of these women for giving their children/our children the gift of life. Then they made the tough decision to surrender the infant to someone who longed for a child. We don't know of the birth father's involvement, but my heart ached for these young mothers. I still think of them and the young men, as much as they were involved, and pray for their well-being.
Thinking of these three "love days--Valentine's Day, Ash Wednesday and our own Arrival Days-- I see a connection with this month's theme of ministry. How do we minister to those who are broken by "poverty, oppression, injustice," or personal heartbreak? On a recent Sunday, Fr. Johnny spoke about how our listening to others and sharing our experience can be ministry. We can do this in person or through our writing.
"Above all," Paul writes to the Colossians, "clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:14-17