A Vocation to Love
Over the years the celebration of Valentine’s Day has become a huge business for the greeting card, flower, candy and jewelry industries. There seems to be this pressure to find a gift that captures exactly how much you love a person. Is there really a gift that can do such a thing? While many people may remember their favorite gift, not many remember every Valentine gift.
In fact, when talking with couples who are celebrating wedding anniversaries about what they have learned about love, I am struck by how many say that the gifts that mean the most are those small gestures and acts that are done in love. These couples are really talking about learning that, at the heart of every marriage, is human love.
Made in the image of God who is Love, we all have a vocation to love. In the particular calling to married life, by the grace received in the Sacrament of Matrimony, the natural love that a couple has for one another is made stronger to sustain a lifelong journey and create a “domestic Church,” the family formed through marriage for service to the kingdom of God (Lumen Gentium, 11). Following this line of thought, the Catechism points out: “It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and charity’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1657, quoting Lumen Gentium, 10).
Charity is any act of love that reflects God’s love for his people. In the context of marriage and family life, it is the channel of grace that moves each member of the family to be self-giving in service to the family. Such love is fruitful, so that it is the gift that keeps on giving.
This past summer, Pope Francis in speaking about the vocation of marriage and the love experienced in the family, reminded us of those very practical and daily expressions of love that we learned when we were young:
“In order to have a healthy family, three words need to be used. And I want to repeat these three words: please, thank you, sorry. Three essential words! We say please so as not to be forceful in family life: ‘May I please do this? Would you be happy if I did this?’ We do this with a language that seeks agreement. We say thank you, thank you for love! But be honest with me, how many times do you say thank you to your wife, and you to your husband? How many days go by without uttering this word, thanks! And the last word: Sorry. We all make mistakes and on occasion someone gets offended in the marriage, in the family, and sometimes – I say – plates are smashed, harsh words are spoken but please listen to my advice: don’t ever let the sun set without reconciling. Peace is made each day in the family: ‘Please forgive me,’ and then you start over. Please, thank you, sorry!” (Address to Participants in the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith, October 26, 2013).
Making a practice of saying these words is a gift that will mean so much to your family members. By such simple acts of love, giving of one’s self in the every day aspects of life, marriage and family are nourished and nurtured in a way that reflects the very life of the Church. Consider making your Valentine gift this year a commitment to such small acts of love.