Valentine’s day…humbug

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings,
what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.


(detail of mosaic of the 3rd century martyr, St Valentine)

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day—that being the made up “holiday” and not that of the real person.
And yes, St Valentine was a real person.

I never had a traumatic incident regarding the day for all things amóre–
in fact, my grandmother use to love telling the story of how I once received roses
from 5 different suitors on a Valentine’s day long, long ago.

My cousins still enjoy reminding me of that story as my husband casts a sideways glance my way…
he wasn’t one of the suitors…

I just have never cared for the exploitation of the life of a person who was not about all things
marketing but rather more about the sacrifice of self for his faith and his fellow man.

It’s that whole notion of the ultimate gift of self…
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

I had labored all last evening on a post about our Founding Fathers.
I spent most of the evening writing it.
I saved it.
Oddly it wasn’t there this morning…just the initial post I had started several days ago…
None of the additions or the final completed edited post…
the completed edition that was to be posted this morning.

I went in via my phone this morning to publish the post and realized, after posting it,
that what I posted was not the completed post I had thought I’d finished late last night–
a post that was good to go, but rather just the initial incomplete writing.

Odd and frustrating to be sure!

What happened you ask?
I don’t know…
But my witness, my husband, was equally baffled as we had chatted a bit about what I had
found regarding the “faith of our fathers”—which was the gist of the post.

I did, however, have a nagging thought all evening that, whereas I wanted to write about the faith of
President Washington and his fellow founders, perhaps I should be writing about St Valentine.

So be it by Divine Providence or some sort of nefarious act—the President will have to wait
until I can rework him and try to remember what I wrote…
and no, it’s oddly not in any of the history on the computer or WP.

So here is my Valentine day offering—what perhaps should have been my initial offering
on this day of Love.
A reminder that our love for one another is to be the greatest gift we can give one another…
because the ultimate example was given to us on Calvary.

According to Church lore,
Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs
during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth.
The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known.
For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court.

“Why, Valentine, do you want to be a friend of our enemies and reject our friendship?”
asked the Emperor.

The Saint replied: “My lord, if you knew the gift of God,
you would be happy together with your empire and would reject the worship of idols and
worship the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.”

One of the judges stopped the Saint and asked him what he thought about Jupiter and Mercury,
and Valentine boldly replied:
“They are miserable, and spent their lives in corruption and crime!”

The judge furiously shouted: “He blasphemes against the gods and against the empire!”

The Emperor, however, continued his questions with curiosity,
and found a welcome opportunity to finally learn what was the faith of Christians.
Valentine then found the courage to urge him to repent for the blood of the Christians that was shed.
“Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized and you will be saved,
and from this time forward the glory of your empire will be ensured as well as the triumph of your armory.”

Claudius became convinced, and said to those who were present:
“What a beautiful teaching this man preaches.”

But the Mayor of Rome, dissatisfied, began to shout:
“See how this Christian misled our Prince.”

Then Claudius brought the Saint to another judge.
He was called Asterios, and he had a little girl who was blind for two years.
Listening about Jesus Christ, that He is the Light of the World, he asked Valentine
if he could give that light to his child. St. Valentine put his hand on her eyes and prayed:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true Light, illuminate this blind child.”
Oh the great miracle! The child could see!
So the judge with all his family confessed Christ.
Having fasted for three days, he destroyed the idols that were in the house and
finally received Holy Baptism.

When the Emperor heard about all these events,
he initially thought not to punish them,
thinking that in the eyes of the citizens he will look weak,
which forced him to betray his sense of justice.
Therefore St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured,
were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 (or 269).

Apart from the historical data we have for Valentine’s life,
there is accompanied various legends,
such as from those who say he is the patron saint of lovers.

The Saint had a reputation as a peacemaker, and one day while cultivating some roses
from his garden,
he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously.
This shocked the Saint, who then cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him.
Even though they were dispirited, they obeyed the Saint and afterwards were offered
a rose that blessed them.
Immediately the love returned between them, and later they returned and asked the Saint
to bless their marriage.
Another tradition says that one of the charges against Valentine was that he did not adhere
to the command of the emperor which stated that men who had not fulfilled their military
obligations were not allowed to marry;
meanwhile the Saint had blessed the marriage of young Christian soldiers with their beloveds.

Besides all this, the likely choice of him as the “saint of lovers” is to be associated with
the pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival, celebrated by the Romans on February 15.
Others connect the celebration of this feast with the mating season of birds during this period.
Certainly, however, the Saint has nothing to do with the commercialism (marketing) of flowers,
gifts and secular centers which trivialize Eros, this great gift of God.

St Peter’s Orthodox Church and Mystagogy Resource Center

the saint of the outcast…a martyr of charity

“Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who
seek to please Him.
His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures
as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations,
to tell Him of your miseries, fears, worries, of those who are dear to you,
of your projects, and of your hopes.
Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

St. Damien of Molokai


(two images of the priest, now saint, Damien of Molokai—images both with and without leprosy)

Are you aware that one of the most dreaded diseases, a centuries-old disease,
that being leprosy, continues to affect people around the world to this day?

At least 150 people yearly, just in the United States alone, are still diagnosed
with Leprosy otherwise known as Hansen’s disease.

Did you know that there are actually 700 functioning leper’s colonies still in operation
in India alone?

Are you aware that there actually remains a leper’s colony in Hawaii?

Yes, on those beautiful tropical islands of Hawaii there is actually an active leper’s colony
which has existed for the past 145 years.

There was a time, much like with the plague, when those affected with leprosy were
forced to wear warning bells announcing their proximity to others…
Upon hearing the bell, all those within ears reach, knew to avoid the oncoming individual.

Leprosy, being highly contagious, eventually forced officials to isolate those afflicted—
hence the colonies of the lepers.
Yet thankfully today, caught early, Leprosy is treatable and is even curable.

Today’s quote is by a man who spent his entire adult life caring for those afflicted
individuals on the island of Molokai who were suffering from the ravages of this horrific
disease.
Not only did they suffer physically, knowing death would be slow, deforming and painful,
they also suffered from the social stigma that went along with living with leprosy…
that being a life of total isolation and expulsion from society.

Father Damien offered those who suffered a sense of belonging,
importance and unconditional love.

Looking past the fear, the deformity, the stigma…
Fr Damien offered the gift of humanity as well as dignity back to those who had been
looked upon as less than.

There is no greater pain to a human being than to be stripped of one’s humanness.
To be regarded as less than…even less than that of an animal.

Father Damien saw past the disease and saw human beings…who were hurting.
He brought back to these individuals the gift of hope…

After 11 years of caring for the colony, Father Damien also contracted the disease.
Yet despite his growing illness, Fr. Damien worked even harder on behalf of his
charges procuring recognition by the Hawaiian government to provide basic
services for the colony.

Father Damien died at the age of 49.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II and was later canonized by Pope Benedict 2009

He is honored to this day not only by the Catholic Church but also by the state of Hawaii
for his service to her people.

Father Damien reminds me a great deal of Mother Teresa…a woman who also spent a life
of caring for and tending to those with leprosy as well as other debilitating
and isolating disease.

These two saints took the example of Jesus literally by living and giving their lives
to the service of those in the deepest of need.

And so it only seems natural during this season of gifts and of giving that we recall those
who have given their all for the betterment of others…

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Saint Damien de Veuster of Moloka’i’s Story

When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

Reflection

Some people thought Damien was a hero for going to Moloka’i and others thought he was crazy. When a Protestant clergyman wrote that Damien was guilty of immoral behavior, Robert Louis Stevenson vigorously defended him in an “Open Letter to Dr. Hyde.”
Franciscan Media.

Later in 1889 Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family arrived in Hawaii
for an extended stay. He had tuberculosis, then also incurable,
and was seeking some relief.
Moved by Damien’s story, he became interested in the controversy about the priest
and went to Molokaʻi for eight days and seven nights.
Stevenson wanted to learn more about Damien at the place where he had worked.
He spoke with residents of varying religious backgrounds to learn more about Damien’s work.
Based on his conversations and observations,
he wrote an open letter to Hyde that addressed the minister’s criticisms
and had it printed at his own expense.
This became the most famous account of Damien,
featuring him in the role of a European aiding a benighted native people.
(Wikipedia)

every piece of every puzzle has a place…

“Do you ever feel like life is pushing us toward something,
some greater purpose?”

Spencer Stone

Clint Eastwood said it was just a story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
And he was right.

And whereas the majority of the movie 15:17 to Paris is basically the lead-up backstory
to the real-life terror attack which unfolded that fateful August evening in 2015 aboard
a Thalys train bound for Paris…
The movie, the story, is more or less, a finished puzzle.

Rather it’s the pieces to this completed puzzle that’s really what’s important.
And these pieces are the lives of three boys who grew up to be in the right place
at the right time…not by odds but by Divine direction.

And if you doubt that, think of each incidence during the courses of the lives of three boys–
think of their ups and downs, their directions, their troubles, and failures.
Think of their lifelong friendship, think of the coming together of each
individual puzzle piece which could only fit together one way, and one way only.

Terror events that end happily…meaning that the bad guys are apprehended,
and where there may be wounded– no one dies…The setting rather is an uncrowded train
full of individuals on holiday or simply commuters and is not a crowded concert hall,
not a crowded street, not a large office building…
these events readily fade more rapidly versus the larger and more televised terror melees
which we live with for years.

Such is a reason as to why telling this story is important.

The movie has received less than stellar reviews.

Clint Eastwood, as director, is taking a lot of heat for producing what is being
perceived as an uncharacteristically poor performing film.
His choice to use the actual boys, who are indeed the real-life heroes,
is being seen as a near catastrophic move for the making or breaking of the film…
which is being seen, more or less, as breaking.

Whereas Eastwood had cast Tom Hanks in the role of Sully Sullenberger in his movie
about the pilot who successfully ‘crash’ landed a fully loaded passenger plane
on the Hudson River, a choice which most critics saw as genius,
here he opted to use nonactors.
A less than genius move so say the critics.

Yes, the movie is a little slow.
Yes, the boys are a little stiff—but they aren’t actors…
A little fact I actually found welcoming.

The flow of the tale is a little awkward bouncing between present and past, past and present.
But you know, I didn’t want to see an actor’s portrayal of this story, I wanted the real deal.
I didn’t want Hollywood, I wanted the nitty gritty of the actual, not the glamorized fictional.

Now we all know I loved the movie the Darkest Hour—but there were many liberties taken
with the historical truth in that film.
Scenes that were totally fictional, cloyingly sentimental which played directly to
the viewer’s emotions.

15:17 to Paris was just what it was…real, raw and unpolished.

However it was what played out in each one of these boys lives,
from the first day they met in junior high, down to what lead each one of them to be on
that particular train on that particular evening of that particular year…
which was the catalyst for preventing a horrendous catastrophe.

The pieces of the puzzle were put into motion long before August 21, 2015.

It’s the details of these three boys lives, the hand of God, which rested on each of them,
the prayers and faith of parents which all catapulted them, leading them to that particular
train coming out of Amsterdam taking them to Paris,
a city they had been very reluctant to visit.

Each puzzle piece as seen by the nonbeliever, the jaded and skeptic would simply
be seen as coincidental.

Coincidence that Stone did not make his hoped-for area of focus with the Pararescue team
due to a lack of depth perception.
This leads him rather reluctantly and begrudgingly to take coursework in paramedics…
of which came into play as he held his hand deep in the neck on the bleeding carotid artery
of the shooting victim on the train, keeping this man alive versus his bleeding out.

A life of failures, slamming closed doors, knocks and hard licks all preparing each
ordinary boy, now grown man, pushing them toward the extraordinary.

Extraordinary by the ordinary, something Eastwood reminds each of us in the sharing
of this real-life story with the real-life individuals involved.
Nothing fancy, nothing glamorous, nothing high tech nor over the top.

This has been an important reminder for me which I suspect will be an important
reminder for many of us.

This is not a Hollywood type of movie.
This is not an Oscar would-be movie.
I doubt Eastwood considered such or perhaps didn’t care about such when wanting to
remind us of the whats and whys when it comes to the making of an ordinary puzzle piece.
Puzzle pieces that have each been pre-ordained to fit together.

Or at least that’s how I see it.

May each of us who are indeed ordinary step up to the extraordinary when we are so called.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

the freedom to enjoy the simpler things…

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
George Washington

They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast,
And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(buckeye butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

Today while we enjoy the marking of a season’s change,
May we remain ever mindful of the many lives that offered the ultimate sacrifice
in order that the rest of us have the freedom to enjoy the simpler things in life…

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13