So if I were to write a post telling men how to win women’s hearts, I would be putting myself in a false position. I don’t even have the excuse of being a priest; a priest could at least form some conclusions from what he hears in confessions and spiritual counseling. In fact, I’m convinced that even Dr. Phil is making educated guesses when it comes to women.
How far would you go to be with the Other? What perils and travails would you face? What would you give up? Would you lay down your life for your lover? In the generic chocolates-and-roses celebration I see a nostalgia, a reaching-back for the seemingly anachronistic idea that there is a love worth dying for.
And isn’t that the heart of witness, the core of the martyr? A priest, whose acts Pope St. Gelasius (r. 492-496) said were “known only to God”, yet found love enough to face the clubs and axe of Claudius II, the same love that drives a mother to offer her body as a shield for her child or a man to brave the raging flames of a house to search for his wife.
Someone once said, “Man is in love, and loves what has passed.” Just as in all the squawky, junky claptrap of Christmas commercialization we reach back for an idealized Christmas that postmodern secularism can’t offer, I think in the bare-bones gestures of romance in Madison Avenue’s Valentine’s Day we reach back for an idea of love that our overly sexualized, reductionist society is incapable of bringing forth. Through the mist and fog of a socially-engineered selfishness and materialism, we reach back not just to the Other but to the fact that without the Other we are incomplete: “male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27).
Perhaps one day we’ll remember that true love always involves the readiness to sacrifice oneself, as Saint Valentine did so long ago. Then maybe we’ll become human again.