celibate musings on valentines day

happy feast of cyril and methodius!! on the catholic liturgical calendar, it is their feast day– NOT st valentine. you can use that as a catholic trivia question to stump your friends.

today is also valentines day. much chocolate, many flowers and other gifts will be given today between friends, spouses and lovers. enjoy!

i have committed my life to God who is love. the various facets of love are not unrelated. so, even though my valentine greetings are given just to friends and family, i do have some observations on this day that is celebrated culturally. here are some random musings from me as a vowed celibate claretian priest on valentines day.

love is a word that has many meanings. valentines day generally focuses on romantic love. this past year during the covid lockdown, i have immersed myself into three main areas of tv: news, sports and korean dramas. from the korean perspective, i have enjoyed the stories of first love, unrequited love, jealousy and revenge in love, love that has died on the vine, forbidden love, power-love dynamics, and broken hearts. most of the stories key on the sentimental dimensions and romantic notions of love. these love themes make for good drama and the stories can suck me into them because of the strong emotion that accompanies romantic love.

why do so many people watch soap operas, reality shows on bachelor/bachelorette, and read romance novels? we are emotionally drawn to these dramas in others’ lives.

we all know that relationships change and have various stages. the infatuation and “honeymoon stages” do not last forever. for some, valentines day can be seen as a chance to bring back the sparks of emotion that are experienced in these early stages of relationship. it probably can happen for some folks; for others it might be a recipe for disappointment. although we cannot go backwards in our relationships, there can be a renewal and deepening of emotional sparks between people. certainly it is wonderful that one’s gift giving is based on the good intention of giving happiness and joy to one’s love. we all like to be remembered, no?

as love between people deepens, a question can linger: will this person be here for me when things get tough? commitments are difficult. love relationships have their various challenges. so committed love relationships can be uniquely hard. our culture in the usa struggles in various ways with the institution of marriage. many people do not believe that lifelong committed relationships are possible. many have been heartbroken because of divorce. still, for many being in a committed marriage is something desirable. perhaps we sense that we are better people when there is a public commitment of relationship in marriage. public marriage promises can more readily translate into, “yes– i will always be there for you because i love you.” in this aspect, love is experienced in commitment.

i like quote another claretian who half jokingly said, “we priests are students of marriage; you married people are the victims.” relationships are hard sometimes. this reality is explicit in the consent given between husband and wife in the sacrament of marriage: i will be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, i will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” these words are sacred and beautiful in their simplicity.

i have witnessed countless men and women in their wedding ceremony say these heartfelt words. the sacrament of marriage is indeed a new chapter of relationship between the two. a new beginning and a new way to be in the world. marriage is a sacrament because it is an encounter with Christ; the love between husband and wife is beautiful because it is a reflection of God’s love for a son and daughter. the love in marriage is wonderful because it is a new creation of the Spirit. the love in marriage is strong because of the faithfulness of God’s love that can now be shown in the particular love of a man and woman. forgiveness-love can be given between husband and wife because God has forgiven us first and continues to give this healing grace. communion in the eucharist is not only personal, but a deepening of christ’s love between husband and wife for their benefit and as witnesses of jesus’ love in the world. the mystery of God is uniquely experienced in the love of husband and wife and children.

one of my bits of advice to those in preparation for the sacrament of marriage is “become best of friends.” all the details of being a husband and wife such as communication, finances, parenting etc, ought to be seen under this umbrella of friendship. friendship between husband and wife can often be neglected.

friedrich nietzsche wrote, “it is not the absence of love but the absence of friendship that makes marriages unhappy.” i believe that there is truth in this axiom.

whenever a couple wanted me to choose the gospel reading for their wedding ceremony, i would generally choose the section in john right after the image that jesus is the vine and we are the branches (john 15: 1-9). it is jesus’ invitation to divine friendship:

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another. (john 15: 9-17)

for me, divine friendship is an important– even essential– aspect of love. in general, it is about self giving, self sacrifice for the other. it is about remaining with jesus. it is about the joy of being a friend to jesus and bearing fruit in the world. these are experienced uniquely between husband and wife.

for those in a sacramental marriage, love is renewed and deepened in friendship: with one another and with christ.

so happy valentines day!! may God’s love be the foundation of all the loves in our lives.


  1. beccamac2001 says:

    That was beautiful!
    We have our moments but we are besties.
    We camp as much as we can , we have a 13 foot vintage casita so there is no room for arguing (literally).
    What would our world do without priests like you who have devoted your life and time to God?
    Thank you for that gift of love and sacrifice .
    It snowed here a teeny bit last night!
    Hugs and love in Christ
    Steve and Becca


    1. frarthurcmf says:

      amen amen! i pray that the Spirit continue to give you surprise graces in your marriage-friendship and that these graces give you joy and tranquility always and in all ways


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s