Valentine’s Day: Love One Another

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thirty years ago, when I was in charge of the Catholic Chapel at Fort Sheridan, Ill., a friend who worked in calligraphy asked me for my favorite Scripture quote. I chose 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” She framed the work, and to this day it hangs in my room at the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Each time I look at the quote, it reminds me of the importance of God’s love in my life, and how generous He has been to bring so many people into my heart.

Today is Saint Valentine’s Day. Many might be angry that the card companies, florists and candy manufacturers have co-opted this religious celebration. Well, at least it is better than remembering the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

There are many legends of St. Valentine. One in particular that I like is that of Valentinus, a learned man committed to Christ. He was condemned to death for his refusal to worship the pagan gods. A jailer brought his blind daughter to him for instructions. Not only did he instruct her in academic studies, but he also instructed her in her relationship with God. Her name was Julia, and she saw the world through the eyes of Valentinus. Her greatest desire was to see.

Asking Valentinus whether God hears her prayers, he responded that she must believe. Together, they prayed in his prison cell and, miraculously, Julia was given her sight. The day before his martyrdom, Valentinus wrote a letter urging Julia to stay close to God, and it was signed “from your Valentine.” People who send messages of affection and friendship celebrating St. Valentine’s Day should always remember that God is love.

Think of the various types of loves. There is marital, familial, brotherly and sisterly, neighborly, friendship and divine. All have its source in God. Even romantic love finds a basis in God.

I have a picture that my sister, Penny, gave me on my 40th anniversary as a priest. It is of my mother and father sitting on the couch, holding me as a baby in their arms. The caption is, “Family … all because two people fell in love.” I look at that picture and realize that if they didn’t follow God’s plan to love one another, I would not have the multitude of people that I have been privileged to love throughout my years as a priest and bishop. These people have shared their lives with me, their families, times of laughter and tears, and their ultimate confidence in Jesus. Through these loves, I have been blessed.

On this Valentine’s Day, you, my “Love One Another” (LOA) friends, help me to stay close to God’s love as we seek to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

We Are One, 

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki 

Archbishop of Milwaukee