by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for February 14, 2016
NOTE: Please hold in your prayer all those who will be attending a weekend retreat, “Naming the Deep Breath,” that I’ll be leading at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, PA, from Friday, February 26 to Sunday, February 28. For more information, go to Franciscan Spiritual Center.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, in a special way, I wish you all the blessings of being loved and knowing yourself beloved by God.
Traditionally, on this day people send cards and give flowers, chocolate, and other gifts to express their love and affection. Little is actually known of St. Valentine, for whom this day is named; however, many legends surround him. One legend relates that, while he was imprisoned for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods, he healed the jailer’s daughter of her blindness. According to that legend, on the day Valentine was executed, he left behind a note for the young girl that was signed, “Your Valentine.”
And so, our custom of sending Valentines. Although the details of Valentine’s life are few, the message beneath the legend points to the primacy of loving others and being loved by God. We are God’s beloved—what an amazing truth! St. John writes, “See what love God has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children. Yet that in fact is what we are.” (1 John 3:1-2). Jesus knew himself as the Beloved at his baptism in the Jordan, when a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my own, my Beloved, in whom my favor rests.” (Matthew 3:17). Henri Nouwen comments that being named as God’s Beloved was the blessing that sustained Jesus his entire life, that no matter what happened in his life—praise or blame—Jesus clung to the knowing of himself as the Beloved of God.
Imagine a world in which everyone acted as the Beloved of God and recognized that same belovedness in others. On this particular Valentine’s Day, I’m very mindful of one of our IHM Sisters, Sister Adrian Barrett, who embodied this sense of knowing. Born on Valentine’s Day many decades ago, she lived her life as a continual blessing and an outreach to people in need, to people who were poor, or broken, or overlooked and dismissed by society. 30 years ago, Sister Adrian founded a wonderful organization, Friends of the Poor, sponsored by my IHM congregation. I’d like to share with you what I wrote as a memorial for our Sister Adrian, who died at the age of 86 on October 12, 2015:
“On this 30th anniverary of Friends of the Poor, we celebrate and applaud the tender heart and bold vision of our founder, Sister Adrian Barrett, IHM. Sister Adrian came into this world on February 14, the great feast of love and a harbinger of the life to follow. Her rootedness in compassion for our most vulnerable neighbors led her 30 years ago to imagine Friends of the Poor, a ministry sponsored by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Scranton.
Bringing together ‘those who have the desire to give with those in need of assistance,’ Friends of the Poor lovingly cares for the immediate physical needs of thousands in our area and also tends to their hunger for beauty, for welcome, for a sense of belonging. Named ‘The Mother Teresa of Scranton’ by actor Martin Sheen, [who narrated a documentary on her life], Sister Adrian lived her life as a clear, uncompromising voice and a champion of those who are often forgotten, dismissed, or marginalized in our world today.
We are profoundly grateful for her holy and extravagant heart and we offer our ‘Hurrah!’ for all the ways she was a true Friend of the Poor these 30 years.”
Happy 1st Birthday in heaven, Sister Adrian, and thank you for all the ways you lived your belovedness and claimed it for so many of your dear friends.
What does being beloved by God feel like? Look like?
Recall a time when you felt God’s care and tenderness in your life.
Name one way you can act toward others that will communicate that they also are so loved by God.