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No church for St. Valentine: a reflection on humility



If you were to ask the average American to name three Roman Catholic saints, you would most likely hear St. Nicholas, St. Patrick, and St. Valentine. All three of these saints are venerated in the church and all of them are associated with major holidays in the West, which, of course, is why they are so well known. Unlike St. Nicholas and St. Patrick, however, there is considerable mystery surrounding the saint associated with Valentine's Day. In fact, the Catholic Church has several Valentines in its canon of saints, and scholars disagree which one is the namesake for our day of romance. This has resulted in a great deal of legend surrounding St. Valentine and his day, and amidst the mystery that exists, he naturally leaves behind little substantiated legacy. He is such a controversial saint that, although St. Nicholas' and St. Patrick's names adorn historic churches in England, St. Valentine has been given no such honor. It would seem the English church fathers were more impressed with legacy than legend!


I wish I could say the same for myself. Although I tell folks that I want to leave a substantial legacy upon the world, my family, and the church, I often operate as if I desire some sort of legendary status. You see, legacy makers are those who don't seek the limelight; rather, they give themselves in service to others, often working in the background and generally unconcerned about recognition or credit for their efforts. They are people like my maternal grandfather who are more concerned about living their lives with character than they are about being characters in some grandly choreographed play in which they are director, producer, and lead. Legacy makers sound the clarions of humility, selflessness, and grace. I, on the other hand, find myself far too often playing the role of "Legend"--that tragic character who seeks fame, fortune, accolades, and power--that pride-bearer who is more concerned with self than others and who, in the end, eschews the place of the servant and favors the place of the served. "Legend's" only clarion is the royal fanfare trumpet, which he uses to announce himself.


But I am not alone. Each of you reading this has stored a fanfare trumpet somewhere in a corner of your life. Naturally, you hide it from plain view, but in the dark corners of the night, or when others aren't looking during the daylight, you bring it out, raise it to just about eye level, and play its alto measure. You quickly put it away, but its notes resonate in your mind, playing over and over again, and sounding more melodic after each repetition. You pretend to favor legacy, but your actions betray your true character. You are "Legend."


Fortunately, we can destroy the fanfare trumpet and reprise (or accept for the first time) the roles of legacy maker and humble servant. In the words of Peter, we can humble ourselves before our Almighty God and wait patiently for his exaltation rather than our own (1 Peter 5:6). We can allow Him to be the director, producer, and lead, and we can assume our proper roles as supporting actors and extras. In so doing, we certainly risk standing outside the limelight and forfeiting the attention of others. However, we gain that which historic St. Valentine never attained, namely, a secure place in God's temporal Kingdom that goes deeper than a legendary reputation and strikes at the heart of our true character as legacy makers for Christ.

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