Amy M. Ink Slingers

Ah, St. Valentine’s Day…

Ah, St. Valentine's Day


What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”  “What did you get for Valentine’s Day?”  “What did you give?”  Common questions this time of year.  It’s easy to be caught up in the moment and want to impress by the gift or what was received – or both.  However, love is more than one day.  Love is more than presents.
            Who was St. Valentine anyway?  He was a priest and bishop who lived in the mid-fourth century.  It was a time when an emperor named Claudius set forth an edict banning the marriage of young people.  He wanted his soldiers to be single-minded in battle.  St. Valentine secretly married many people.  He held true to his faith in prison, curing the judge’s daughter of her blindness, which caused the judge and his entire family to convert to Christianity!
            Love of God was his driving force.  Giving up his own life to be true to God.
            It’s been said and discussed in many forums that love is not only a feeling, it is an action and a call to live one’s life for another.  How do we do that?  How do we move past ourselves and our needs and our wants and look at another as more important than ourselves?
            Valentine’s Day as it is in the secular world today focuses on romantic love and outward gifts to show the world how much one person loves another.  With social media, it can become quite the contest.  How quickly we can go from being happy and content with our relationship to seeing the bouquets of flowers or candy or jewelry with the posts about, “I’m so lucky/blessed…” In comes the sting of rejection.  The disastrous “if-onlys.”
            My husband and I went anti-Valentine’s Day even before we were married.  It isn’t that we don’t like to give each other gifts or go out for dinner, but we both cringe at the inflated prices that going out on the day that we are SUPPOSED to go out if we really love each other (insert eye roll here) brings.  Oh the deals that can be found on candy and flowers the week AFTER Valentine’s Day!!  The pressure to put on a good show can be overwhelming and invites a failure to succeed without even trying.
            No, showing love and bringing love into our home needs to happen on a daily, even hourly, basis.  We’re human, and as such, we fail at love.  We fall down in our expectations – of ourselves and of each other.  
            As our children are getting closer to being adults and having relationships of their own, I am becoming increasingly aware of how our actions will affect their future relationships, how important modeling a healthy marriage relationship is.  Yet, see above.  We’re human, and we do not model a healthy relationship all the time.  We in turn need to look to the Holy Father and the Holy Family for our examples.  When we fail, we need to pick ourselves back up and try again, with God guiding us.
           We have been called to marriage and raising a large family.  Our goal in life is to raise our children to know love within marriage and family and to feel secure in being loved, living loved.  Our children need to know we love each other and they need to know they are loved, not because of what they do or achieve, but because of who they are.
           Again, this isn’t a one-time declaration.  Every day, multiple times a day, they need to see, hear, and feel that they are loved.  Not just from us, because we are flawed.  We will let them down.  When we do, we will seek forgiveness and try again.  However, they need to know that even though human love is flawed, God’s love is constant and perfect.  They were created in love, by God, for a purpose.  Each one unique.
           When we turn into ourselves and worry about whether we are receiving enough attention, affection, accolades, we turn away from this truth; we turn away from God.  Instead of growing in God’s love, we try to feel loved through other people’s reactions.  Almost a sure-fire way to find rejection.
           St. Valentine didn’t perform marriages because he was a hopeless romantic. He did so because he served God and not man.  His security wasn’t found in human laws or holidays, it was found in God’s will for his life.  
           So we pick ourselves up and try again. We resolve to be closer to God, to follow Him, and to lead our children to Him through our loving example.  When the ugly words start to come out, when we feel less than, we need to turn again to God.  We need to keep our eyes on Him.  He is always here for us, always loving us, with a perfect love that never ends.
           No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:37-39

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Seven Ways to Love

Seven Ways to LoveWe are coming into Lent and right smack dab in the first week we have the feast day of St. Valentine, just four days after Ash Wednesday. Typically we associate Valentine’s day with flowers, candy, and sweet, happy thoughts. While love does indeed encompass all these things love is also often a call to sacrifice. In fact, St. Valentine himself is a symbol of sacrificial love, a fact that has been lost over the years.

When we talk about love and marriage today we often forget that love, as it matures and grows, becomes a decision, a choice. We choose to love even when we find ourselves living through difficult times with our spouse or children. On rough days we may find ourselves having to choose to love our families. Marriage, and parenthood, offer abundant opportunities for sacrificial love.

In addition to loving our spouse and children, we are also called to love our neighbor. In fact, our Church has defined seven corporal and seven spiritual works for loving friend, foe, and neighbor (more on the spiritual and corporal works here). With Lent and St. Valentines just on the horizon I’m going to walk us through some practical ways to live out the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, focusing on how we can teach our children sacrificial love through these acts of mercy.  

Quick Take One: To Feed the Hungry

Seven Ways to LoveThose who are parents know this one well since we are responsible for providing three squares 365 days of the year. And sometimes it is indeed a sacrifice to come up with a meal as we stand before the bare cupboard like old Mother Hubbard. This might be because family illness or a broken vehicle has kept us from shopping or because we have experienced a crisis of finances. If it’s the latter, it’s a true act of love to swallow hard and ask for help. It’s important in that moment to remember that Jesus lived a life of poverty and, as hard as it is to be the recipient of help, those feeding the hungry need to help as much as the poor need the help. It brings both parties closer to Jesus. When we teach children to make snacks and eventually how to cook meals, they are learning to show love for their families and eventually to even share the fruits of their labor with neighbors. There is little that my children enjoy more than bringing fresh hot cookies to our neighbors. 

Quick Take Two: Give Drink to the Thirsty

Seven Ways to LoveIt is indeed a corporal work of mercy, as well as an act of sacrificial love, to get up at two in the morning to give a thirsty child a cup of water, especially if you have only just returned to bed from nursing the baby. But how can we help our children to experience, in a tangible way, what it means to give water to the thirsty? I mean, other than teaching them to help a thirsty sibling get a drink. Within our own communities we can have bottled water available to hand out to those whom we encounter on street corners, a wonderful witness for our children. In addition to taking actions close to home, we can participate in worthwhile programs that raise funds to drill wells in poorer nations where people walk miles, daily, to haul fresh water back to their home. We can encourage our children to tithe from their birthday money, allowances, or summer jobs to give in some way to the poor – whether by donating food and water to shelters or investing in an overseas program. Additionally, as a family, we can participate at local food banks with our time. This coming Lent might be a good opportunity to practice the idea of tithing our talents, not just our money.

Quick Take Three: Clothe the Naked

Seven Ways to LoveAny mother worth her salt has invariably climbed Mount Laundry only to tumble back down the mountain into the very mire of laundry she just climbed out of. She gets “clothing the naked”. But how to help our children learn about this need – besides making them fold every blessed piece of clothing in the house? I don’t know about you but I have to regularly purge our closets of excess clothing – in our case largely due to generous donations of friends and family. Have your children help you with this task and make the sacrificial decisions of which favorite shirt to give away (the one in better condition?) and which to keep. The added bonus to this is less laundry for the mountain.  

Quick Take Four: Shelter the Homeless

Other than volunteering at a homeless shelter – how can we teach our children the value of helping those without refuge? I think sometimes we have to look outside the box especially when we are in the throes of raising a young family. I mean it’s not really practical to drag four children, six and under, to assist at a women’s shelter. During those years when they are too young to actually help at a local center, our children can make crafts and drawings to send to a homeless shelter to add cheer to the atmosphere there. When they get older we can help them collect necessities that shelters are always looking for, whether through organizing fund raisers or earning the money themselves to buy soaps and tooth brushes.

Quick Take Five: Visit the Sick

Seven Ways to LoveWhen we are overwhelmed with the every day chores of getting several children fed and dressed ourselves, how can we possibly be worried about others who are sick? And yet, there are many shut-ins and lonely elderly living in extended care facilities that would love selections of your children’s artwork that is flowing over and falling off your fridge door. These art efforts can also be directed towards designing handmade cards and mailed to soldiers recovering from injuries in vet hospitals. (Can you tell that I’m really into sharing children’s art?)

What can we do once our children are past the art stage? I remember one year we had almost every child down with strep throat and they were sad and miserable. A close friend’s children gathered up favorite games, toys, and puzzles and lent them to our kids. It meant so much for my ‘patients’ to have something new to use for a little while and even more to know that their friends were thinking of them while they were sick.

Although we are talking about the sick, sometimes those healthy in body are lonely in spirit and could use some love. Is there an elderly couple in your parish who are always alone, even on holidays? Your children could make them cards or share a favorite drawing with them or write them a poem. If you know them well enough, invite them for an afternoon tea party.

Quick Take Six: Visit the Imprisoned

Seven Ways to Love

Typically when we say imprisoned we are thinking of those who are incarcerated. But there is more than one kind of prison. There are the housebound, the elderly, and those adjusting to catastrophic life changes – such as the loss of one’s sight or becoming paralyzed. Besides sharing our children’s art, what other avenues will help us teach our children to love the imprisoned? Encourage older children to show Christian love by helping  housebound neighbors or acquaintances by running errands for them. We can also encourage our children to visit those living in extended care facilities. Last Christmas my seventeen year old organized a caroling event for a retirement facility completely on her own. What a joy it was for her friends and younger siblings to see the happiness on the faces of those lonely people who are, in a sense, imprisoned.

We can also help those we will never meet by becoming involved in service animal training programs either by raising a puppy ourselves or helping to raise funds for those who can’t afford these very expensive animals. What a gift that would be to help a person imprisoned in their home (with perhaps epilepsy) to receive an animal whose training might allow them the simple freedom of going for a walk alone once again.

Quick Take Seven: Bury the Dead

Well, obviously this is not meant literally, at least not when you don’t know the person. So how can we help our children learn how to show love for the dead in a physical way? While they are very young, one possibility is to help with the cleaning of your church’s cemetery; sometimes your parish will have a committee that needs help raking leaves or planting flowers. When they are older they can help with funeral luncheons or receptions or cleaning up after the luncheon. When my sons were younger they frequently served funeral masses, another much needed way your family can offer physical support for the burying of the dead.

With Lent literally just around the corner, I hope that one or more of these ideas on helping your children love sacrificially will inspire your family to add some sacrificial love to your Lent. 


Be sure to visit This Ain’t the Lyceum and see what other folks have shared for today’s Seven Quick Takes.

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Cecile Richards is at it again, friends. What I wouldn’t give for a sit-down with her, given that she is often seen around my neck of the woods – Austin.

She says women need ABORTIONS for Valentine’s Day.

I realize it is the most commercialized holiday around, but its roots are still firmly placed in our Catholic faith. What would St. Valentine think of all of this nonsense?


I won’t go into the sketchy details that Planned Parenthood has touted that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

I won’t bore you by stating the obvious that abortions are {unfortunately} legal.

I won’t even bother pointing out the hypocrisy between PP wanting abortions to be rare and this photo, which is worth a thousand words.


No, friends, I won’t bother and bore you with all those pointless words. Instead, I will ask you to download this picture, What Women Need, to counter Cecile’s slap in the face approach to telling women what we “need.” Don’t let her tell YOU what you need.

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Use the hashtag #whatwomenneed and be sure to tag us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. We want to see what YOU come up with.

Ready to ROCK? I thought so.

Cecile Richards doesn’t speak for me.

Does she speak for you?

**Please also consider offering up your sufferings and fast for the conversion of her soul. Anyone who is this vehemently in favor of abortion and will stop at nothing to campaign for the death of the unborn and pit mother against child needs every last prayer and suffering that we can muster. And our job as Catholics is to desire heaven for EVERYONE. Add her name to your prayers, friends. Let’s call on the Church Triumphant to join us in converting hearts and minds. 

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Happy Lupercalia, Saints, Valentines, Birthday

What connection could possibly exist among a bawdy Roman fertility festival, the deaths of holy saints, a sentimental holiday, and the birthday of a modern child? Plenty.

Lupercalia was celebrated in mid-February from prior to Julius Caesar (It is mentioned in Shakespeare’s historical play of the same name.) to its outlawing, attributed to Pope Gelasius in the fifth century. The ceremony involved naked young men sacrificing goats, and then running a course while waving around the goat skins. Women lined the path’s edges, presenting themselves to be smacked by the skins, hoping for good luck in childbirth, or to be purged from the bad luck of infertility. Afterward, spectators and participants lounged about the cave where Romulus and Remus were rumored to have been nursed by a she-wolf (Lupus), flirting, eating, and hopefully getting those long-for babies coming. In AD 278, during Lupercalia, a priest was beheaded by Claudius the Cruel.


The Saints Valentine were actually several martyred priests of the Roman Empire, of whom are told legendary stories of daring, rebellion, and romance: performing secret weddings, aiding prison excapes, and penning notes from behind bars on heart-shaped leaves, signed, “from your Valentine.” At least one of them was killed on February 14 and it was his feast day that replaced Lupercalia per Pope Gelasius’ decree. The good saints were venerated as part of the liturgical rhythm for eight hundred years. Then a poet gave voice to his feelings on art and love.

Chaucer’s 14th century poem, The Parliament of the Fowls, contains this couplet, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” for the first time connecting the name of the loving saints with mating birds. From this, our current celebration of love pursued and proclaimed hails. Many special friendships commenced with cards (to the tune of 190 million a year) and dinners; many relationships deepened with diamonds and proposals; many marriages made and anniversaries honored on this day.

Last year’s Valentine’s Day, this married couple, grateful to God for healthy fertility (without bloody goat skins, thankfully), welcomed a new soul to the world, appreciating the prayers of the Valentine saints. Our adorable Adah Marie is one year old today, shamelessly dressed in hearts and flowers! Like women 3000 years ago, I rejoice in the blessing of a child with much jubilation. And introspection.

Even in pagan Rome before the life of Jesus was known, people desired love and children, meaning and ceremony, fun and entertainment, beauty and alleviation of suffering.  These universal desires of the human heart from time immemorial find rest and fulfillment in the Son of God. This is the connection among Lupercalia, martyrs, sentiments, and babies ~TRUE LOVE.  Jesus changed everything.

For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.  (Robert Browning)

Eighty-six years I have served Him and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and Savior?  (Polycarp, moments before his execution)

Adah Marie, sweet as can be.  (Me, in a little tune I sing to her.)