This picture has been circulating around on Facebook all week:
And, while all four of those things probably didn't happen to the very same St. Valentine, it shows us a very important thing about love. You have to be willing to lay down your life for it.
Now, I'm not talking about anything dramatic like taking a bullet for someone you love (though that would be very gallant). I am talking about laying down your selfishness and petty annoyances for a person you love. Actually, the latter is much harder to do, because it's not a split second decision and it requires recommitment every day. It's not the same kind of love that makes your insides turn to jell-o. It's the kind of love that makes you feel like you're standing on a rock; as firm and secure and having your hand held.
My senior year in high school, our religion class was about living your faith in the world and included such topics as marriage and family life. There was one presentation that stands out in my head to this day. It was a taped conference talk given by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D. on marriage. He related the story of a couple he was counseling who was having trouble with their marriage.
He asked them to look into each other's eyes and tell him what they saw. The woman responded, "I see my very best friend." Buscaglia said he looked at the man and said, "I would burst into tears if that's all my wife saw in me." I remember being horribly offended by this at the time, but not being sure why. Now, I am sure.
If all you have is that jell-o feeling, know this: it goes away sometimes. Sometimes it stays away for a long time and all you have is the friendship: the deep, abiding, relationship that makes you care intimately about that person. If you don't have the friendship, you won't have a relationship for very long after the jell-o feeling goes away.
After 21 years of marriage, I can tell you with certainty, I am married to my very best friend and I would be lost without him. The jell-o feeling comes and goes, but the firm love of a sacramental marriage lasts. It is a reflection of the love that Christ has for His bride, the Church. And, as Christ laid down His life for us, we are called to do the same for each other, but in a most particular way, within marriage. Just like St. Valentine laid his life down for the love of Christ, we are called, as lovers, to lay our lives down for one another.
So, even though the Church has decided to move the Feast of St. Valentine off of the liturgical calendar and replace it with the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the message is still the same. Cyril and Methodius laid their lives, their desires, and their pride aside to serve the Lord. In our marriages, we are called to do the same.