In honor of the Feast of St. Valentine, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to l’amour and how Catholics do romance.
G.K. Chesterton, the famous English author (and notable Catholic convert), in his book Orthodoxy defines romance as “that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar…the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure.” So, romance is fundamentally a paradox, a contradiction.
This isn’t just about opposites attracting; it’s about embracing the cross: perhaps the ultimate sign of romance since there can be no greater contradiction than the cross (cf. Luke 2:34).
Okay, before I get too theological, go back and reread (if you haven’t already done so) this post about Bl. Bartolomé.
After reading his letter, doesn’t your heart stir with sorrow and with some sort of inexplicable contentment? See? A paradox, no? Here is romance.
So, what does this interesting, if not confusing, theological point have to do with us?
Employing a little etymology, Chesterton tells us that “the very word ‘romance’ has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome.” Thus, to be romantic is to be Roman (Catholic). Catholicism is romantic because of the centrality of the cross. We are a paradoxical people because we follow Jesus. In Him, suffering and salvation meet; justice and mercy intersect.
If you think about all the romantic comedies you’ve seen, you will notice that when everything about a relationship becomes familiar and mundane, then romance is lacking. It is the unfamiliar and strange which awakens the lovers (i.e. people who love) from their humdrum lives. Chesterton says, “We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.”
According to Chesterton, in order to achieve this, we need “practical romance”. This is where our Catholic perspective comes in. For our faith tells us that true love means dying to ourselves and seeking only the summum bonum (i.e. the ultimate good) of the other person. The more we see the face of God in the other person, the more intimately we encounter Christ, the more romance grows, and the more deeply we love. As you know, Love for us is not just a feeling in which one can fall into and fall out of, but a Person who has loved us first and who taught us how to love.
Through an intimacy with Christ we are united to Love; His Sacred Heart beats as one with ours such that each breath, each blink, each word, each though of ours radiates His love. What can be more exciting? Is there anything so “dangerous” or so thrilling than to surrender yourself completely to Jesus?
Without this union, our lives would be completely void of romance since we would have no use for faith in a God of mystery and contradiction. Yes, because we serve such a Lord and because we are open (I hope) to His will, our lives can never be normal or ordinary. How can life be mundane if we are to go “To the Ends of the Earth” so that “all the world will see” that Jesus “alone is the Son of God”? How can we live humdrum lives when we must daily face a battle between the forces of light and the beasts of Hell?
But getting back to the celebration of the day…even in the ordinary sense of the word “romance”, I think Catholics are the most romantic because we can appreciate the small, seemingly insignificant acts of kindness that are done with great love. In the little things like praying the rosary together, going on a First Friday date to adoration, reflecting on scripture together, or working alongside each other in ministry or another act of service, you affirm your commitment to keep Christ at the center of your relationship as the Source and Object of your love. More than all the great displays of affection this holiday (holy day) may promote are the daily acts of charity and humility to demonstrate true love and sincere affection.
Even if you are confused from all that I’ve written so far, understand this: if you want the relationship that Bl. Bartolomé had with Maruja, if you want that kind of romance, then love God above all else. That’s it!
For those of you in an exclusive pair relationship, remember that life is too short to settle for mediocrity. Although all relationships require tough struggles, do not settle for dating someone just for the sake of having someone to “go with”. You are worth more! You deserve romance! You deserve to experience that holy contradiction which enflames the heart and that was ignited by the spark of a pure and self-sacrificing love. Do not settle for less! But in order to achieve this, you must be like Bl. Bartolomé: your boyfriend or girlfriend must first and foremost be your brother or your sister.
For those of you not in such relationships or not called to the married life, then the same more or less applies because you’re still going to have friendships and other non-dating relationships. In these too can you experience romance; the expression of which, however, will definitely be more fraternal and less amorous. Yours will be a supernatural romance with the God of beauty and of wonder.
So, as you enjoy the candy, the flowers, and the pink and red hearts, think of Bl. Bartolomé sitting in his cold, dark prison cell, awaiting execution and writing a letter to his girlfriend, Maruja, whom he will not see again until reuniting on that day when nothing will ever separate them.
Think also of another prisoner: a Roman priest who is about to die because he was caught celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony for Christian couples. Before his head is cut off, this prisoner writes a letter to the jailer’s blind daughter whom he had restored to sight. He signs this letter, “From your Valentine”.
“…as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you….”
The title of this post are the first lines of a love letter.
With the hand and heart of a poet, twenty-one year old Bartolomé Marquez writes these words of true love to his girlfriend, Maruja. You can almost hear him whispering each romantic stanza into the ear of his beloved Maruja as she rests in his arms, her head reclining close to his heart.
Yet, his beating heart will soon end and—in a natural way—so will the romance. For, young Bartolomé writes this love letter from a Spanish prison where a bullet will silence the heart which throbs for love of God and his girlfriend.
Spain, an ancient Daughter of the Church, in a dark period of history, turned against her Mother. In 1936, Bartolomé was imprisoned for the crime of being a Catholic faithful to Holy Mother Church. He was a catechist and an officer in Catholic Action.
On the day of his execution, he walked barefoot out of his cell in an imitation of Christ walking to Calvary. He kissed his handcuffs and spoke his final words on earth, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”, “Long live Christ the King!” Pope Benedict XVI, on October 28th, beatified Bartolomé Marquez and 497 other martyrs who shed their blood in witness to the Gospel.
The relationship between Blessed Bartolomé and Maruja demonstrates the beauty and passion of a Catholic romance. I have always believed, and Chesteron will undoubtedly agree with me, that Catholics are the most romantic people in the world because we know most intimately not just the feeling of love but the Person of Love: Deus Caritas Est! Christ, the Source of Love, teaches us how to love because He has loved us first. With the bullet which ultimately sent Bl. Bartolomé to the arms of Christ the King, his romance with Maruja ceased its earthly expression, bound by natural limitations, and was transformed into a supernatural romance.
Note how Bl. Bartolomé expresses his love for his girlfriend. Like some of you, I grew up in a time (the 80s) when handwritten letters were still a common means of communication among friends and family members. And for quite a while now, I have been of the opinion that in our communication, we have traded efficiency for substance, elegant prose for sound bytes. “though” is “tho”, “you” is “u”…and the list of “lol”s, “idk”s, and “brb”s is seemingly endless…and “love”, perhaps the most power word ever spoken or written has become “<3” (or whatever the current shorthand form is).
Speaking of love—in all its blessed forms: eros, amor, caritas, philia, or agape—we’ve even managed to treat this highest of human experiences as a prepackaged commercial quality, a mere feeling, rather than as precious gift and sacred action.
Bl. Bartolomé knew both of love and how to communicate it well in words. In his final love letter to his girlfriend, the Blessed speaks more than just cute words of affection. He proclaims truth. Particularly, Bl. Bartolome talks about ennobling. Be it his love for Maruja or even his body, through martyrdom, he is being ennobled, that is, transformed into something higher, something noble, something more resembling God. Thus, after reading his letter of courageous fidelity, one is left with a profound sense of hope and a renewed determination to defend our Mother, the Bride of Christ.
Yet…there’s something about that last sentence…his final farewell…
Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936
My dearest Maruja:
Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.
I am assisted by many priests who — what a sweet comfort — pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.
My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God’s court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.
My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.
Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.
My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.
Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God’s help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.
Bl. Bartolomé Blanco Marquez of Pozoblanco, pray for us!
“Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!
For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land…
Arise, my friend, my beautiful one, and come!
My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely. — Song of Songs 2:10-14
Catholic Pickup Lines
So, for me, Holy Thursday is by far the most romantic day of the entire year. Although any day is a wonderful opportunity to express God’s love towards others, there may be a few of you who may make a special effort for the Feast of St. Valentine. In that case, here are some Catholic pickup lines that you may find useful.
1. I should start a novena in thanksgiving to St. Anthony because I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for.
2. You have beautiful eyes; Leah would be jealous. (see Gen 29:17)
3. I like your veil.
4. Am I levitating? Because I think I’m in ecstasy.
5. When I meet the Pope I’m going to kiss his ring. Can I practice on your hand?
6. Introduce me to your parents; I want to thank them for choosing life.
7. I wish I was your scapular so I could remain close to your heart.
8. I’m spending my Purgatory on Earth each moment away from you.
9. When can I see you again? My guardian angel wants to hang out with your guardian angel.
10. Can you light my candle? The wind blew mine out. (at a night rosary procession)
11. Do you know the words of the Te Deum? I’ve got to praise God for making such a beautiful creature.
12. It’s First Friday; do you want to make reparation together?
13. Happy feast of St. Agnes! You know, I had a dream about you last night. I wonder what it means… (according to folklore, the person you dream about on the eve of the feast of St. Agnes is the person you’re going to marry).
14. John Paul the Great must have been inspired by you when he wrote “Mulieris Dignitatem”.
15. St. Peter may have the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, but you have the keys to my heart.
Here are some others that I found online that you may enjoy.
16. Confess here often?
17. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?
18. You’ve got stunning scapular-brown eyes.
19. I bet I can guess your confirmation name.
20. Let’s get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.
21. You don’t like the culture of death either? Wow! We have so much in common!
22. What’s a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?
23. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we’re having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?
24. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?
25. You don’t have an accountability partner? Me neither.
26. The Bible says “Give drink to those who are thirsty, and feed the hungry”; how about dinner?
27. You look so beautiful in that mantilla you wear to Mass.
28. Want to go to Adoration with me?
29. Man does not live by bread alone. So how about dinner and a movie?
30. What do you think Paul meant when he said, “Greet everyone with a holy kiss” (1Pet 5:24)?
31. A little bird… the Holy Spirit actually… tells me we should get to know each other a little better.
32. What are your plans for tonight? Feel like a Bible study?
33. Hi, this pew taken?
34. My prayers are answered.
35. Has anyone ever told you, your eyes are like doves and your neck like the tower of David?
36. Read any good Bible passages lately?
37. You know Jesus? Hey, me too! (from Brittney Quirk)
38. I lost my rosary, can I use your fingers? (from David Napoli)
39. Hey … I don’t want to embarass you but your Scapular strap is showing. So … how long have you been wearing that? We should discuss the Sabatine promises over a 40 hours devotion sometime. (from Robert Klesko)
40. “It’s Passion Sunday, may I hold your palm?” (from Walker Solis ed. by me)
41. Presenting a rose: “I just may be the answer to your Little Flower novena.” (from Walker Solis)
42. Thumbing a rosary: “How ‘bout joining me for a few decades?” (from Walker Solis)
43. “Me, I prefer a more traditional Mass. I’m a regular Latin lover.” (from Walker Solis)
44. “You’re a saint! Kiss me, and make me a second-class relic!” (from Walker Solis)
45. “My Guardian Angel thinks you are cute” (from Aaron Russell)
46. “Is that a new perfume or the odor of sanctity?” (from Walker Solis)
47. If I had a bead for every time I though of you, I’d have a joyful mystery. (from John DeLozier)
48. I love that new Benediction Incense scent on you. (from Alexa Schuele)
49. You are like the book of Revelation. You’ve got me all confused. (from Christa Masson)
50. “I think I am called to the vocation of Marriage. Wanna help?”