Pastor’s Message February 17th, 2019

One of the many consequences of the so-called sexual revolution has been the decline in the number of people getting married. In an article entitled, “The Death of Eros,” which appeared in the October 2017 issue of the journal First Things, Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote: “As recently as 2000, a majority – 55% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 were married, compared with only 34% who had never been married. Since then, the two groups have swapped places. By 2015, 52 % of Americans in that age group had never married, while only 41% were married.” Regnerus suggests a number of reasons why fewer people are getting married these days, but one of the primary reasons is a loss of understanding about the true meaning of love, which is not so much a feeling as it is giving of oneself and sacrificing one’s own interests for the sake of another. 
A few days ago, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, or, more precisely, St. Valentine’s Day.  The world around us associates Valentine’s Day with romance, the purchase of candy, flowers, or other gifts, including romantic, intimate dinners celebrating a day dedicated to what our secular culture views as love, we can look at this day as one connected with the color red. Have you ever wondered why? The reason red is associated with Valentine’s Day is because red is the color of martyrs. St. Valentine was a martyr who shed his blood in witness to his faith in Jesus, and willingly died out of love for his Savior, who, in turn, sacrificed his life and died for our sins on the cross – the motivation that spurs all of us on in our faith.   
There are several versions of the story of St. Valentine. Ironically, on this day of romantic love, the prevailing consensus is that it was named after a celibate priest! The Roman martyrology records the February 14th death of a priest named Valentine who died in the year 269. According to a book by Fern G. Brown, February 14th was called “Valentine’s Day” after this Christian priest who lived in Rome in the third century A.D.  At that time, Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted and forbidden to follow the “new religion” of Christianity. St. Valentine was apprehended for preaching Christianity and sent to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his efforts to make Valentine renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterward, to be beheaded. He was executed on February 14. He apparently was buried on the Flaminian Way, a Roman highway extending north from Rome to Rimini built in 220 B.C., and a basilica was built in his honor less than a century after his death. He was later proclaimed a saint. 
Another story tells of a priest named Valentine who loved children and gave them flowers from his garden. He was put in prison by the emperor because he refused to pray to the Roman gods. The children missed their friend and threw him bouquets of flowers with love notes attached through the prison bars. Valentine spent a year in prison with only the most basic necessities. The jailer’s blind daughter brought him messages and food and tried to make Valentine’s life easier. The emperor, impressed with Valentine’s gentleness and dignity, offered to set him free if he would give up Christianity and begin to worship Roman gods. Valentine refused and was ordered to be put to death. During the priest’s last days, he prayed that the jailer’s daughter would regain her sight, and she did! Then Valentine was beheaded. 
If you never heard these stories of St. Valentine before, but if you are to truly live the life of a dedicated Catholic Christian, it is essential that you understand the life of martyrs like him and be willing to follow their example, even sacrificing your life out of love. Rather than simply celebrating a romantic sentimentality on February 14, may I suggest that it would be more appropriate on St. Valentine’s Day to focus on the sacrifices that true love demands of us.
   Next weekend (already???), we celebrate our Annual Parish Festival. “Many hands make light work” is an old expression that signifies what we need to make our festival successful. Since the festival benefits the school 100%, I’m urging all our parents to volunteer to help in some way – raffle tickets sales, manning booths/tables, working the Flea Market, food services, trash removal, shuttle transportation, set-up and break-down of equipment and a host of other possibilities are included. For those just attending and not working Saturday afternoon, I want to caution you that parking for the Saturday 4 pm Mass will be “a bear.” The 5:30 Mass will work a little better, and Sunday afternoon Mass, even more so. If you’re wanting to avoid the parking “mess,” I’d like to suggest that you attend one of the Sunday morning Masses next weekend. It will help you “keep your cool.” $100 raffle tickets are still available at the church or rectory.
   I offer my sincere thanks to Mary Sommerville, Director of Family Life Services, and those volunteers who assisted her in making last weekend’s retreat with Father Michael Gaitley, the beautiful occasion and success that it was! A special thanks goes to Jay Flood, our Director of Maintenance, assisted by his staff, for helping the program go so smoothly. Without their help, it would have been impossible to host over 550 guests at that weekend event in an orderly manner.  
   Congratulations to our Parish Coordinator of Stewardship, Dan Siller, who now takes on the role of Director. You can see him each weekend running around the church in one of his many roles, coordinating the ministers of hospitality, an important factor in promoting stewardship in our parish.   
   Congratulations to Thomas and Anita Scirica Liguori of the Archdiocese of New York and part-time parishioners here, as they celebrate 67 years of married life! Cent-anno!