I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled! Luke 12:49
Also Read: Family Tip 7 - Take back our Catholic Holidays
Valentine’s Day is dedicated to Love. Details of the origins of Valentine’s Day are lost in the mist of centuries, but two recurring versions speak of St. Valentine as an early priest who was martyred for upholding the sacredness of marriage. Due to an imperial edict in pagan Rome forbidding soldiers in active duty to marry, he performed wedding ceremonies in secret.
Consequently, apprehended and sentenced to death, while in prison, he miraculously cured the daughter of his jailer of a serious complaint. Both father and daughter converted. Before execution, he is supposed to have written the healed girl a note of farewell signed, “Your Valentine”. This note is the ascribed origin of our own Valentine Celebration.
But in the flurry of hearts, candy boxes and red roses, one great Valentine, He who, ultimately is the origin of every true, selfless love, remains in the background.
Yet, no Heart ever beat with more love than His. No one ever proved love as He did.
Just as we have the need to make our sentiments of friendship and love visible in the shape of hearts, from paper hearts, to candy hearts, to jeweled hearts, so with Him. As if not able to hide His love for humankind any longer, He decided to make it visible.
The devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus has origins even more ancient than those of the priest and martyr Valentine. The first to hint at this devotion was St. John Evangelist when he spoke of the pierced side of the dying Lord, pointing to His wounded heart.
In the Middle-Ages, the idea of the Love of Jesus symbolized by His Heart was personally practiced by many a sage and saint. St. Gertrude is considered one of the early heralds of this devotion, along with her sister St. Mechtilde. St. John Evangelist once appeared to St. Gertrude, and revealed that, at the Last Supper, on leaning his head on the heart of the Lord, he was given an intimation of this devotion, a devotion to remain hidden, and only revealed when hearts would grow cold.
In June of 1675, Our Lord appeared to a young nun of the Order of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque. He was radiant with love, His burning heart exposed. He said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved mankind…instead of gratitude, I receive from the greater part, only ingratitude…”
He asked for a devotion of reparation to His heart wounded by so much ingratitude and indifference, for the receipt of Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month (having made a good Confession if necessary), and the observance of the Holy Hour. He promised amazing blessings to those who display an image of Him with His Sacred Heart exposed in their homes. He also asked for a feast day dedicated to the devotion of His Most Sacred Heart to be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, which devotion the Church subsequently established.
Thus, it was through the humble religious, St. Mary Margaret Mary Alacoque that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Savior was made public, and the world given the greatest and truest of all Valentines.