St. Valentine: Self-Sacrifice Is the Truest Expression of Love

“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” —Jesus Christ (John 15:13)

Today is the feast of St. Valentine of Rome, the namesake of the popular romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day, and of the famous Slavic evangelists Sts. Cyril and Methodius. There are many heart-warming and lovely secular practices now surrounding this day, but I wanted to share a short meditation on what the life of the saintly namesake of this holiday teaches us about the true nature of love—and how it is best expressed.

The Roman Emperor had issued an edict restricting marriage, but St. Valentine secretly married many couples. For this and for his Christian faith he was imprisoned, but even in prison he healed the blind daughter of the jailer Asterius.

”In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, ‘from your Valentine.’”

Back in 2020, before Covid shutdowns ended my brief stay in Rome, I was able to visit the church where St. Valentine’s skull is preserved. Seeing that skull on Valentine’s Day was not a ghoulish or morbid experience—it was a joyous one, a reminder that self-sacrificial love extends beyond death and that those who love God and their neighbor in this world will live in eternal happiness in the next life. True love—romantic, filial, fraternal, parental, amicable—is, by its very nature, self-sacrificial and eternal. “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting,” Jesus Christ told us (John 3:16). And how did Christ save the world? Through His death. When Catholics say that Jesus was born to die, that is not morbid; it is an awe-inspiring truth. God so loved the world that He became man so that He could die and thus ensure that those of us doomed to death by sin might live. The bleeding, broken Christ on a cross is the greatest image of love that this world has ever seen. The greatest act of love ever performed in history was the death of the God-man.Love is good and true and enduring only to the extent that it is giving. Only those willing to sacrifice for the beloved are truly in love.

is self-giving precisely because it sacrifices a lower good for a higher good. Why do we give valentines and flowers and chocolates and other presents on St. Valentine’s Day? Because humans instinctively know that love is only love when it provides visible signs. Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter Heaven (Matt. 7:21). To put it another way, the man who claims to love another but will always sacrifice that other to his own desires and convenience, or the man who never once does something kind for his “beloved,” is a liar. Love is action. And yet the mystery of love is that, by giving, one receives. Married couples sacrifice the chance to have many partners for exclusivity with one—and so experience a deeper, more lasting, and more satisfying love than that experienced by those who have a new romantic partner every month.

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Posted by CatSalgado32

Catherine Salgado is a columnist for The Rogue Review, a Writer for MRC Free Speech America, and writes her own Substack, Pro Deo et Libertate. She received the Andrew Breitbart MVP award for August 2021 from The Rogue Review for her journalism.

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