A Friend’s Writing as a Proxy for My Valentine’s Day Wishes
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.
I am not the “mushy” kind of man who can write nice, sentimental pieces suitable for such a romantic occasion, but I still would like to acknowledge the intent and, yes, the “sentimentality” of that day as an expression of esteem for the “fairer sex” writers and readers here at TMV, including my lovely wife who is also a reader here.
A few days ago, saving the day for me, I received a nice essay written by a good internet friend** (and one-half of a mutual admiration society) that I feel is perfect for the occasion:
Billy Joel likes laughing with the sinners. Me? I’m still deciding.
Okay, I’ll admit that during grade school going for brownie points with the good nuns kept me crying with the saints more than laughing with the sinners. And, as Feb. 14th approached, I completely rejected the other saints because why waste time with second rate saints when St. Valentine himself was purported to have the highest success rate in making the love connection? But, sigh, those days are long gone. So what about today’s overall perspective of St. Valentine? Has opinion changed at all?
In 2013, some people still question if St. Valentine holds the record in the Saints Hall of Fame for putting lovers together. I actually asked around to get an answer. A skeptic on love I’ve known for years burst out laughing when I polled him. “Holds the record? Don’t be ridiculous.” Then he told me St. Valentine wasn’t even a real saint. What? Not a real saint? That person must be the devil himself I thought privately because St. Valentine was a true card-carrying saint and, to this day, there is a little shrine to him in a Carmelite Church in Dublin.
Seriously. Some of my relatives – whose last names kept changing with O’s dropped off or added on – actually visited that shrine. How else would I be able to explain all those smiling Hurley and McCart Irish eyes? And, according to Wikipedia, there allegedly are relics of St. Valentine at the reliquary of Foquemaure in France, in the Stephansdom, in Vienna and also in Blessed John duns Scotus’ Church in Glasgow, Scotland. Merciful heaven, could there have been more than one St. Valentine? Now I’m really concerned if my prayers are landing in the lap of the right saint!
Obviously, many nationalities want to claim a part of St. Valentine. But, if I had to say which group I thought deserved the prize for the deepest devotion for relics, I believe my Italian friends win for honoring him the most. In Cosmedin, Rome, right there in the Basilica of Santa Maria, one can actually view St. Valentine’s flower crowned skull! How’s that for a heart stopper! So I think Italy deserves first place.
And, speaking of a heart skipping a beat, every kid who ever attended grammar school remembers those valentine boxes all decorated with white paper doilies and pink and red hearts. What fun we had picking out the perfect one for that kid we had a crush on. One year the object of my true puppy affection stole the show for the best Valentine when he walked right up to my desk and handed me an entire box of chocolates. I was ecstatic, said thank you and then lifted the satin lid on the box. Whoa, half the chocolates were gone. Vertigo set in. It was like being stunned with a can of mace especially after he told me he only ate the ones with nuts.
In high school that crying with the saint’s thing wasn’t much fun anymore so that’s when laughing with the sinners went hormonal. That’s also when I noticed how fast the back row in the local movie theater filled up. These movie opportunities for feeling groovy and laughing with the sinners presented an emergency cause for examination of conscious for any girl wearing a uniform especially one deeply captivated by the gloriously painful and tortured lives of the martyrs and saints. Yes, we girls in knee socks were called daily to demonstrate an exemplary life just as those models of sacrifice did! Oh, what to do as we struggled with our good angel and bad angel on either shoulder.
By now you may be wondering if I ever did discover some saints who laughed and smooched on Valentine’s Day? Did I ever discover some saints who said they wanted the most valentines and the biggest box of chocolates? Now, remember Valentine’s Day preceded Lent. So added to my consternation – and I’m talking for weeks beforehand – were the nuns’ gentle hourly reminders to give up those occasions of sin, dispense with those worldly pleasures we liked and say no to everything fun. They said it would make us morally stronger.
They got to me. I gave up. Just proclaimed out loud to every friend within hearing distance, “I’m going back to crying with the saints and I’ll give up kissing!” I was completely miserable for an hour until that kid who gave me the chocolates told me we had an exemption of our sacrifices on St. Joseph’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and every Sunday. Hallelujah!
So to all my crying saintly friends, here’s to a Happy Valentine’s Day from this continuing deliberator whether you are on the dance floor, in a basilica or in the confessional wishing you were laughing with the sinners instead of crying with the saints.
** The friend is Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP, a practicing Human Relations Counselor, a Certified Group Psychotherapist and a Clinical Member of The American Group Psychotherapy Association.
Mary Jane’s daughter, Katie, died at age 29 on July 10, 1999, after a 10-year battle with pediatric brain cancer.
Always a letter writer, Brant continued writing to Katie and eventually, together with her husband , Richard, she compiled those letters into a book, “When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life.”
In her book, Brant tells of the efforts she and Katie made to maintain their joy and passion for life while struggling against the devastating disease, but she also hopes the book will help other grieving parents and she includes advice on accepting unimaginable loss. But the book is above all a tribute to her beloved daughter, according to Kathy Boccella at the Philadelphia Enquirer.
Valentine’s image: www.shutterstock.com