We Catholics ‘remember’ a saint who was martyred in third century Rome. Most of what we ‘know’ about him is likely to be apocryphal, but he was a real person; archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to him.
The story goes that the emporer Claudius II (Claudius the Goth) needed soldiers because the Roman empire was growing too large to defend from attack, and was suffering from internal strife as well. Believing that unmarried men would be more likely to take a seven year posting to the frontier without rebelling. Claudius passed a law forbidding young Roman men to marry.
St Valentine, who was a priest, ignored the edict and performed many marriages for young couples. He was arrested. There are a number of stories about his time in prison, including one that he greatly impressed the Emperor. An attempt to take that a step further and convert the Emperor was not well received, and St Valentine was beheaded.
It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message, “From Your Valentine.”
St Valentine is the patron saint of young lovers and of marriage.
Happy Worldwide Marriage and St Valentine’s Days.
We have quite a bit to celebrate. In New Zealand, according to the Department of Statistics, two thirds of marriages celebrated in 1983 were still intact after 25 years.
In 2008, 21,900 marriages were celebrated – an increase over 2005 of around 400. Two thirds of the marriages, and all of the increase, were first-time marriages. There were also 327 civil unions. Average age at marriage is 29.2 for men and 27.3 for women.
A researcher in the US, Ted Huston, says that marriage don’t break up over conflict, but over loss of feelings of love and affection. He has created a marriage quiz (starts at the bottom of the linked page), that claims to put you into one of four groups for likely durability of your relationship. But he also offers some tips for increasing your chances of surviving as a couple:
- Remember that loving and caring are not random emotions; they are decisions to positively exhibit what you truly feel.
- Remind yourself of all your mate’s valued traits that initially captured your interest. Rehearse them in your mind to recapture the affection and loving feelings that drew you to your spouse.
- Speak lovingly of these memories. Be cautious not to imply that they have changed.
- Highlight to your children, family and friends your spouse’s positive attributes and how they enhance your and their lives.
- Recall the pleasurable activities you used to share and make an effort to duplicate them.
- Place yourself in a romantic and playful mood and recreate your out- of- practice passion.
- Start giving your spouse three appreciations a day about any of the following four areas: How his/her body looks and feels, his/her helpful or appreciated thoughts, evidence of cherished feelings and any action that is pleasing to you.
- Consult your partner about important and insignificant couple or personal issues – it affirms your mate’s significance and partnership contributions.
- Look into your mate’s eyes as you think about how wonderful he/she is. The caring energy will be absorbed and likely to be responded to in kind.
- Talk of your pleasure at just being together. Appreciating his/her mere presence conveys your true liking of your partner’s essence, which generates mutual love and affection.
If you’re getting ready to marry, treat yourself and your beloved to a marriage preparation course. I’ve linked to a Catholic one in Wellington, which is not just for Catholics; everyone is welcome. Other Catholic diocese run them, and so do the Anglicans. If you’re married, try a Marriage Encounter weekend; my husband and I went on one last year, and even after 39 years and a really good marriage, we still got a lot out of it. And if things are tough, consider Retrouvaille.
Statistics suggest that being happily married benefits men, women, children, and communities. Good marriages aren’t made in heaven. They’re made right here on earth, by couples who think their marriage is worth working for. So celebrate World Marriage Day and St Valentine’s Day by letting your spouse know that your marriage matters. And remember, romance and roses are nice, too.