January was only halfway over when I saw it: a dismal post on social media about being single on Valentine’s Day.
Being single when so many people have a “significant other” can be very hard. Until I got married a few years ago, I was single. Even though I was not interested in dating for most of my teenage years, there were still moments when I wanted to have that fancy date, romantic moment, or sweet relationship I saw in a movie or at school. Being single is a challenge at times, and when a holiday like Valentine’s Day comes around, it can feel like singleness is painfully being shoved in one’s face. Years ago, I realized that I wanted to avoid the often glum emphasis on singleness around Valentine’s Day, and I realized that I needed to redirect my focus towards something—or Someone—other than myself. I began to ask myself the following question: On an over-commercialized holiday that celebrates love, affection, and relationships, why not actively celebrate God’s sacrificial love?
Yes, receiving chocolate and flowers from that “special someone” is nice, but love goes much deeper than these material objects. The love that God calls each Christian to is more intense than a romantic chick flick or fancy dinner. The love that God desires for us to share in is radical, courageous, and uncomfortable. A prime example of love can be found on a crucifix: suffering, perseverance, and total selflessness. Furthermore, God’s love is not some distant, intangible concept but a reality in our lives. It is our vocation here and now.
In his book, The Forge, St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “The truth of a Christian’s life is this: self-giving and love—founded on sacrifice. Love for God, that is, and, for God’s sake, neighbor.”
Keeping this image of love in our minds, we can change our perspectives and transform how we celebrate Valentine’s Day. When I was a teenager, I developed a plan for my “perfect Valentine’s Day.” I decided that my ideal celebration of this holiday would include Mass, Adoration, possibly Confession, spending time with friends, and some type of ministry that would stretch me in bringing God’s love to others—like visiting a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. While I could not practically enact this plan each time the holiday rolled around, I began to keep this perspective in the front of my mind as February 14 drew near each year. For example, one year, I gave out handmade cards to classmates, then prayed a Sacred Heart novena for their intentions. Instead of concentrating on my singleness, or on all of the dating couples I knew, I tried to focus on bringing God’s love to other people in any way that I could. Finally, one year, I did manage to put my “plan” into action, and it was one of the most memorable and amazing Valentine’s Day celebrations that I have had. It was a beautiful opportunity to fill myself with God’s love, and to then share this love with others at a homeless shelter and on my college campus.
No matter what your marital status is, I encourage you to place God at the forefront of your Valentine’s Day festivities. Actively find a way to spread God’s love to other people. This could mean visiting a shelter, nursing home, or soup kitchen. It could even take the form of visiting a housebound person. It could mean sacrificing your time to visit an Adoration chapel or to pray with friends. There are numerous ways that each of us can spread God’s love, and each person should find whatever works best in his or her life and vocation. We must remember that God desires to fill each of us with His graces, love, and mercy. Overflowing with God’s love, transformed by His grace, we may go out and bring His love to all people. As Christ said to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska:
“My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy. I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them. You, at least, come to Me as often as possible and take these graces they do not want to accept. In this way you will console My Heart. Oh, how indifferent are souls to so much goodness, to so many proofs of love! My Heart drinks only of the ingratitude and forgetfulness of souls living in the world. They have time for everything, but they have no time to come to Me for graces.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph #367)