|Valentine’s Day card from 1909|
Happy St. Valentine’s Day, the one day a year in which all Americans, regardless of religion, build their lives around the Traditional Latin Mass calendar. For those of us using the Ordinary Form calendar, today is the Memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius, not St. Valentine, a little something I like to call “the celibates’ revenge.” Brantly over at Church POP asked me what to write about Valentine’s Day from a seminarian’s perspective. Here’s a taste of what I wrote:
I think that perspective is best captured in the nickname that Valentine’s Day has in many seminaries: Celibacy Awareness Day. For those of us committing ourselves to live a life of celibacy, today’s a great day to reflect on the beauties of celibacy, and the beauties of romantic, marital love. [….]
There are a few important connections between marriage and celibacy. The first is that the beautiful view of celibacy depends upon a beautiful view of marriage. There’s a reason that Christ teaches this about celibacy in the midst of teaching about marriage (Mt. 19:1-10) and family (Mt. 19:13-15).
After all, this kind of celibacy is about giving up something good for God. But that’s not really a sacrifice if you don’t want to get married, or can’t get married for whatever reason, or if marriage is a horrible thing that nobody ought to do in the first place.
St. John Chrysostom says it best, in a passage quoted in CCC 1620:
Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.
So to understand the beauty of celibacy, it’s critical that we understand the beauty of marriage. But celibacy and marriage are tied together in other ways, too. Priests help to bring about new marriages by witnessing them; parents help to bring about new priests by their own witness to their children.
Fittingly, the life of the real St. Valentine shows the deep connection between the two. He was a celibate priest from the third century, who laid down his life to ensure that his people received Christian marriages (in defiance of the imperial law).
So as a seminarian, I don’t think that Valentine’s Day is a day to indulge in self-pity. Rather, it’s a day to remember the beauty and joys of romantic and marital love, which serve as the foundation of my own sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll check out the full piece. I give a better description of what I’m calling the beautiful view of celibacy and of marriage than in the excerpt quoted here, as well as a few things to watch out for in how we think about celibacy. And on that note, Happy Valentine’s Day!