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: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.