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Love, sweet love
"WHAT THE WORLD needs now, is love, sweet love." The lyrical strains of the hit song from the 1960s seem particularly poignant this year when wars, rumors of war, outbursts of violence, and the bitter acid of politics compete for our attention. Where is St. Valentine when we need him?
Today, of course, is dedicated to love--romantic love and family love--thanks in part to Geoffrey Chaucer, who idealized the notion in the High Middle Ages. After courtly love became all the rage, traditions began--giving flowers and sweets to lady loves or handwritten notes to beaus--traditions still kept.
But the observance of St. Valentine's Day stretches back to the third century, when, as one story goes, a priest named Valentinius defied the pagan Roman Empire and secretly married a Roman soldier and his beloved--both Christians. Thus, Valentinius broke the law for the sake of the heart. Brought before the Emperor, he was ultimately beheaded, a martyr to love.
There are other stories about other saints named Valentine, but that one makes it clear that, despite hearts and flowers, cupids and arrows, the origins of Valentine's Day are edged in darkness--injustice and death. Even the pretty Hal David-Burt Bacharach song was written in the turbulent 1960s, when civil-rights fights, Vietnam, and assassinations ruled the headlines.
That, alas, is the way of this world. Still, we can follow the examples of St. Valentine and the modern lyricists by expressing love in some way today. Like a rose blooming in the snow, love will find a way, with a little help from us.