What makes a true valentine

Matt and Mindy Dalton

Many years ago when I was in the business world, I often got together with another gentleman whom I looked up to greatly, as he was the young maverick of the industry.

He was one of those guys who was very inspiring and had it all going in his favor. It was late in the month, as I remembered, as I was busy trying to get some transactions funded before month-end, when he called and insisted we go to lunch. He always had a little more expensive taste and we ended up at his favorite spot. This particular restaurant had white table cloths, real silverware wrapped in linen napkins and the wait staff was always extremely accommodating.

As we sat down, I anticipated hearing yet another nugget of what made him successful, so I could practice that myself. Deep within my own heart, this was the guy I wanted to be. Instead, he started in on a litany of all of the things that he does as a husband and a father, and how his wife falls short of doing the things he expects her to do to satisfy him based on the lifestyle he provides.

As I was listening to his complaints about his life, unbeknownst to him, God was unfolding another narrative.

A husband and wife came and sat at the table just in back of my friend. This couple caught my eye in a very particular way; first, the husband was pushing his wife in a wheelchair. He stopped short of the table as the hostess moved the chair out from under the table so that this man could comfortably push his wife into place at their table.

They were a seasoned couple—a bit older—and they were dressed very sharp. As the man pushed his wife into place, I noticed that she was unable to use any of her limbs. The care that this man displayed was extraordinary and he did it with such grace. He unrolled the white napkin, placed it on his wife’s black turtleneck, tucked it in just below her chin, picked up her glass of ice water, gently held the glass to her lips, set the glass down and kissed her on the forehead. This woman, his wife, had the look in her eye of pure joy, pure love.

As the man sat down, I caught his eye as he wiped his own brow, as I figured he started his day quite early to get himself ready along with getting her dressed, loaded, and situated for their day out. He too had that spark of joy in his eye.

What I witnessed while at lunch that day was the battle over the meaning of life. Mother Teresa said it best, “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”

While attending Mass this week, may we look up at the crucifix and contemplate deep in our own hearts the suffering that Jesus was willing to endure so as to teach us the true authentic meaning of sacrificial love. What kind of men and women are we going to choose to be? Will we allow Jesus to crucify our selfishness so as to be set free; free to love others, especially our spouse, as he loves us?

For Lent this year, let’s embrace the concept of loving our spouse faithfully, just as I saw in the couple at the restaurant that day.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.