Back in early January, late December I was surfing the web, reading some of my favorite Catholic bloggers. As a lurker and sometimes participant in “7 Quick Takes Friday,” with my blog via “The Conversion Diary” I saw the saint generator and thought about it but didn’t push the button. Then I saw a link again when I was over at First Things reading another favorite of mine, “the Anchoress.” This time, I decided to try. I got Saint Valentine of Rome. Feeling vaguely disappointed, like oh, I already know this saint….I scanned his biography but didn’t give the matter much thought.
Two hours later, my second daughter was helping in the kitchen and explained out of the blue, how she loved all the celebrations at her school except for Valentine’s Day. I asked why. She said, “It is just an excuse to give paper and candy, it doesn’t have anything to do with the real Saint Valentine.” I gave my educated Mom answer, “Saint Valentine is patron saint of marriages and happy couples, having celebrated the sacrament for early Christians who wanted their relationship to be reflective of the person of Christ. It’s the beauty of sacramental relationships as versus their lesser imitators, relationships not rooted in a desire to be faithful, forever and oriented towards deepening the other’s connection to God.” I thought I was on a roll. “It is as the difference between fine chocolate and carob; vintage wine and grape juice, a deeper fuller relationship than can be imagined by this world or those who love the world first.” I’d overdone. It happens. She sort of rolled her eyes a bit and left the kitchen. But I knew right then and there I needed to go back and start to know this saint better. Saint Valentine had asked for my attention twice in one day. God doesn’t do random.
Now my middle daughter had struggled with double vision since November. Over the weeks, we have been scared out of our minds about the possibilities –cancer, tumors, stroke, blindness, diabetes; you name it, and had all sorts of tests to try and determine the cause but to no avail. We also had her eyes tested in November and December and visits to a Neurologist and were in the process of trying to bang down a door for an Educational Psychologist on the theory that she might be seeing things that weren’t actually there. All we ever got was “We don’t know. Let’s do more tests.”
The week I accepted the invitation to let Saint Valentine be a source of inspiration and education in my faith for the year, I got a phone call. The team of specialists had discussed my daughter’s case and asked that I take her back to the eye doctor. They were finally able to address her vision properly and now she has glasses that correct her vision and her handwriting which had deteriorated to the point of being illegible is beautiful. She is 8. She fell asleep that night reading. I can’t tell you the last time that happened or how much great joy and blessed relief seeing her resting with the lights on and the book over her chest 3/4ths of the way through brought me.
I went back to reread the story of Saint Valentine and the part about the daughter of the jailer being cured of her blindness leapt out at me. I had not seen it or taken it in before. Saints are God’s means of bringing the community of Heaven and Earth closer together, of connecting us in our modern world and sensibilities with the universal timeless truths of our Church, as revealed across centuries of faithful witness.
So I’m heading out to buy chocolates and cards for my children and a little something for my husband. We’ve already sent flowers to my mom and his as part of celebrating this Saint’s feast day with a bit more emphasis and personal enthusiasm for the traditions however hokey they may appear. The hearts and flowers mean a lot more than Halmark’s bottom line with the focus on beauty and truth; how much we love and how much we want to love. And I want my kids to know that while you can go overboard with words and sentimentality, you can never go overboard trying to be loving to others, it’s an infinite gift to give.
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
P.S. If you want to use the saint generator, go to http://jenniferfulwiler.com/saints/. I’ll be spending this year in Saint Valentine’s tutelage.