Valentine of Rome (d. 269)
A Christian priest in Rome, Valentine was known for assisting Christians persecuted under Claudius II. After being caught marrying Christian -couples and helping Christians escape the persecution, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor. Valentine was beaten with stones, clubbed, and, finally, beheaded on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration in Valentine’s honor. He has since become the patron saint of engaged couples, beekeepers, happy marriages, lovers, travellers, young -people, and greetings. (Information on Facebook from Shane Claiborne)
Valentine’s Day 2019 (coinciding with Thursdays in Black)
Social media was awash with messages of love on Valentine’s Day, but from Thursdays in Black supporters, the flowers came with strong messages that love is not violent. “Love heals, not hurts” was the message from the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Thursdays in Black Valentine campaign, which was taken up by individuals and partners around the world.
The board of the Council for World Mission (CWM), based in Singapore, issued a statement on Valentine’s Day to welcome and partner with the Thursdays in Black movement. Stating that CWM is “committed to loving acts” that heal the harms of sexual violence and rape, of abuse of children, of rights abuses against sexual minorities, the board demanded that “churches must play their part in ending the violence against these communities and people God made in God’s image and love.”
Lyn van Rooyen tweeted from South Africa, “While the world around me seems filled with hearts and flowers, coloured pink and red, I am wearing black for every woman who thinks it’s okay that love hurts. #ThursdaysinBlack.”
Raising awareness about the realities of gender-based abuse and violence, and demonstrating support and solidarity, are key to the Thursdays in Black campaign. But action doesn’t stop there. “We want churches to be safe spaces for education, support and healing,” says Rev. Nicole Ashwood, WCC programme executive for Just Community of Women and Men. “Churches can offer intentional spaces where advocates and survivors can interact, and where those facing abuse can be linked to help and support networks,” she said.
But what is also critical is stopping the abuse in the first place. Here, the WCC’s work on “Transformative Masculinities and Femininities” seeks to change cultural and theological attitudes that contribute to sexual and other forms of abuse against vulnerable people because of their gender. “It is a peace-based initiative which seeks to unearth the root causes of abusive behaviour in communities of women and men and address them through biblical, ethical and sociological frameworks,” says Ashwood. “Just communities model positive approaches to relationships between men and women through workshops, training, peer counselling and other interactions in contexts where violence is normative.” Ashwood invites churches, ecumenical organizations and individuals engaged in Thursdays in Black to join in WCC efforts. Interested organizations can call or write through the WCC office contacts, or via email@example.com.
The work to transform relationships is underscored by Damon Mkandawire, United Church of Zambia, in his message on Valentine’s Day: “Dear generation, raise your men to respect women whom they say they love. Raise them to understand that love is not abuse. It’s allowing ‘differences’ to speak. For you men or women who might read this and find yourself in this situation. Find hope within your struggles. Never settle for an abusive relationship. … There is hope for true love. This Valentine’s is about reminding you that love heals and it never hurts!”
Rev. Dr Collin Cowan, CWM general secretary, sharing his firm committed to the fight against violence towards women following the CWM Board statement, stated “I believe the time has come for men to be in the forefront of the resistance and protest. We must not just resist violence against women but acknowledge how diminished we are by inflicting, allowing or ignoring violence towards women. Patriarchy is a violation of God’s creative design and as such it is a sin. he Thursdays in Black campaign must take on new energy by the ecumenical community with men in the forefront declaring that real men don’t hurt women.”
(Source: World Council of Churches)
More reflections on love on the WCC website here.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13, 4-7; NRSV)
“On the one hand, this scripture expresses love’s infinite beauty and ability to empower,” says Nicole Ashwood, WCC programme executive for Just Community of Women and Men. “But some women read lines like love ‘bears all things’ to mean that in a marriage or relationship they have to put up with violence. So we want to unpack this scripture, and talk about it in the context of God’s love for everyone.”
Eternal God of Love and Grace,
In your very being we discover the essence of relational, triune love. For you are the Lover, the Beloved, and the love that flows in between. As one created in your image, empower me today to be a person of deeper love – heart, soul, mind, and strength – both for you and for those around me.
During this upcoming Valentine’s Day, commercialized by chocolates, flowers, and candy hearts, grant me an authentic love, stripped of selfish desire and plastic facade, and shaped by a view of myself as you see me.
Enable me to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, that I may share in the reconciling work of Jesus throughout creation. Teach me to harbor no ill will or resentment for wrongs done to me. And may the lingering effects of hurtful memories wane over time.
Give me sober judgment in the way I practice love with those dearest to me. For with them I can be at my most vulnerable, but I am often my most guarded. Empower me and those I love to rebuild trust where it is broken, and openness where there is self-protection.
Help me to deepen the friendships I have with those who are most concerned for my well-being. Strengthen my relationships with those to whom I can be best accountable for my actions, who can offer me godly advice, who love me unconditionally, and who can speak the truth to me without judgment or reserve.
Grant me a heightened awareness of those around me who feel both unloved and unlovable. Make me an agent of loving hospitality, embodying the warm, welcoming embrace of your love for them. Give me opportunities to reach out to those who are lonely, frightened, confused, and distraught, that I might be for them what others have been for me.
Thank you for loving me in ways that are both tenacious and patient. Work past the harboring barriers that I have built within myself, keeping me from experiencing the free flow of your love in my life. See through my self-assuredness, release me from doubt and disbelief, do not be deceived by my pride, and love me through my guilt and shame. For in your grace I can find my truest and best self, as one created in your very same relational, triune image.
I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Love Made Real, Amen.
(Source: Rev. Magrey deVega)
What would it look like to fall in love with God for Valentine’s Day? Here is a great prayer/poem to read and reflect on. Recognizing the depth of God’s love as it is expressed in the story of Jesus, falling in love with this God whose love has not limits, really does change everything in a way that is totally transformative of our lives. The prayer is attributed to Father Pedro Arrupe (1903- 1991) from the Basque region of Spain who became the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is,
than falling in love in a quite absolute final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekend,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.