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The Cross is the Greatest Symbol of Love

There is no doubt that God has a sense of humor. This year’s liturgical calendar has Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 14 – Valentine’s Day.

Archbishop Listecki

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee


There is no doubt that God has a sense of humor. This year’s liturgical calendar has Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 14 – Valentine’s Day. If we are discussing who the greatest “lover” is, hands down it’s God, who gave us His only son (“God so loved the world,” John 3:16).

But, there are those who are lamenting that they can’t go to their favorite restaurants. They can still go, but they must make sure that the meal is meat-free, and that they have not eaten more than one full meal. Oh, my gosh! You’ll just have to settle for lobster dipped in butter. Ash Wednesday is both a day of fast and abstinence.

I must admit, not too many have asked for a dispensation, and I am waiting for someone to suggest that the priest or minister, when distributing ashes, make the form of a heart rather than a cross. At confirmations, I suggest to the congregation that the greatest symbol of love is not the heart, but the cross. The cross demonstrates just how far God will go to show His love for us. The very basis of love is sacrifice. No one truly loves another if they are not willing to make a sacrifice. There is no greater love than one who lays down his life for a friend. 

Believe me, I like Valentine’s Day. I take the opportunity to let a number of family and friends know of my love and affection for them. I am grateful that they are in my life, and what they have contributed in drawing me closer to God. Remember, according to the legend of St. Valentine, he was jailed for the practice of his faith. While in prison, the jailer had a daughter who was blind, and he asked Valentine to instruct his daughter, Julia, in studies. But, Valentine also introduced her to God and the faith. She confessed to Valentine that she desired sight. The two prayed together, and a miracle happened – she was cured and able to see. The evening before his martyrdom, he wrote a note to her, imploring her to stay close to God and, at the end of the note, signed it, “Your Valentine.”

Whatever adjustments need to be taken for Ash Wednesday, hopefully we will do it in the spirit of remaining close to God and fulfilling Valentine’s last wish.

When I said that God has a sense of humor, with Ash Wednesday being on Valentine’s Day, guess what? Easter is on April Fools’ Day. St. Paul writes (1 Cor. 4:9-10), “We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ.”  

Happy Valentine’s Day! May we always LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Note: This blog originally appeared as the September 13, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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