Valentine's Day is tricky for many people. This year, it's also on Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, penance and abstinence from meat for Catholics, so it's doubly tricky.
Ash Wednesday launches the penitential season of Lent, which culminates in Holy Week, with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But, since Christ's willing Crucifixion and Resurrection were all in the name of love, perhaps the confluence of Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday is not so strange after all.
The Secret of Lasting Marriages
For many married couples, after the first few years, or decades, keeping the spark alive is a challenge, and Valentine's Day just brings that into focus. Over nine episodes, our new YouTube series Lasting Marriages: I Do...And I Still Do profiles five long-wed couples about how to do just that.
Episode three, released Feb. 6, focuses on "The Wedding." Take a look:
But while weddings may be the culmination of romantic movies and Jane Austen novels, in real life, they're just the beginning of the story.
Tips From the Trenches
Two of the couples featured in our series offered thoughts on how they do Valentine's Day.
Cheryll Ibarra, who's featured with husband Victor, explained that they're both dealing with health challenges that take up much of their time, but she did say:
I can just say that Valentine's Day, as commercial as it is, has been very special to us. Victor never forgets candy, a beautiful card, dinner, and a huge bouquet of red roses to celebrate.
Way to go, Victor!
The Catholic Origins -- and a Catholic Celebration -- of Valentine's Day
Series participants John and Ashley Noronha are Catholic speakers, media personalities, theologians and university professors.
They live in Rome, where they're creators of the Truth & Beauty Project, a nonprofit that creates "unique Immersions using encounters with knowledge and beauty to teach what it means to make your life a masterpiece. We also offer a scholarship program, made possible by wonderful donors, to help set the faith of young adults from around the world on fire."
As you might expect, their Valentine's Day thoughts lean toward the religious end of the spectrum -- and after all, St. Valentine's Day is actually the feast day of a Catholic saint. He was a priest, maybe also a bishop, in 3rd-century Rome, to whom many amazing feats are attributed.
Said Father Steve Grunow of the Word on Fire apostolate:
What we know of the “real” St. Valentine is that he was a Roman priest who was killed because he would not renounce his faith in the Lord Jesus. If the date of around 270 is right for his death, he was martyred during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius the Goth (Goth refers to his cultural affiliation, not his preference for black clothing).
Legend records that St. Valentine was killed when he was discovered presiding at the marriage of a Christian couple, thus the association of the saint with romantic love and affection.
St. Valentine is the patron saint of love, young people, and happy marriages.
The Noronhas were kind enough to answer all our questions, and here's what they had to say:
How important are ongoing romantic gestures, including (but not limited to) Valentine’s Day, for keeping the spark alive in a marriage?
There's nothing more romantic, loving, tender and touching than the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the other. It's the greatest romantic gesture possible. It's not easy to do, but it does keep the spark alive in marriage. It shows what Christ-like love is. The context is not the Hallmark version of St. Valentine's Day, but true self-giving love.
We feel blessed that our anniversary of marriage is on February 1, the last official day of the Christmas season, which demonstrates Christ making the great sacrifice of taking on our nature and emptying Himself to redeem it, and, that date is also the vigil of the feast of the Presentation, the spirit of that reminds us of the complete presentation of each of the spouses to the other and then, collectively, completely to God. This is what St. Valentine also demonstrated mystically in His spiritual marriage to the Church.
What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?
In 2023, we hosted a Truth & Beauty Project Immersion on "Joy in Marriage" in Rome. On the feast of St. Valentine, we celebrated a private Mass at the side chapel dedicated to St. Valentine at the ancient church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
The relics of the saint's head are contained in a reliquary on that altar. Later, we visited the shrine of Divine Love in Rome, dedicated to a miraculous image of Our Lady. Inside the shrine are the tombs of the first beatified married couple, the Quattrooccchis. The couple shows us how it's possible to reach great heights of Christ-like love and holiness together, and to collectively journey along the road to heaven, hand in hand.
If a friend came to you and said he or she really wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a longtime spouse but is completely out of ideas, what might you suggest?
We might suggest, how about planning some time to sit in front of the Eucharist together?
So, whether you're going to dinner (or Eucharistic adoration, as the Noronhas suggest), staying in with your favorite streaming service, offering a romantic gesture, or just stealing some time out of a busy day to remember why you fell in love in the first place, we wish all spouses the true joy of love, and of course, Lasting Marriages.
Image: Family Theater Productions
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.