By Genevieve Pollock
HYATTSVILLE, Maryland, FEB. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and many men are scrambling to prepare for what seems like a yearly comprehensive exam on the state of their relationships.
They wonder: Does she want something material this year, like diamonds and roses, or rather an evening out? Has she been dropping me hints that I’ve been deaf to? What if I thought I knew what she wanted, and then she said something that threw me for a loop again?
ZENIT asked Rebecca Ryskind Teti, a wife and mother herself, about the inside scoop on what women really want on this Feb. 14 celebration. Teti, who blogs daily at www.faithandfamilylive.com, asked her readers, women from across the country, about their plans and hopes for Sunday.
Teti, also a contributing editor to Faith & Family Magazine and the In Good Company columnist for Catholic News Agency, added some other ideas for making this day special for the whole family.
ZENIT: With Valentine’s Day approaching, we are being bombarded with television commercials that give the impression that all women want this Feb. 14 are diamonds and cellular phones. Do these material things really make a woman happy? What is it that makes women happy?
Teti: Gifts do help! Ads exaggerate to sell particular products, but to the extent that a gift is a token of something deeper — of love, affection, or appreciation — of course it is delightful.
What sometimes offends us about advertising is the implication that women live for gifts, that presents must be extravagant to count, or that a token of affection can be coerced.
We shouldn’t neglect the positive premise that’s also present, though, which is the reminder to take time to show the people we love that we appreciate them.
Material things have no power to make us happy, but they do make our daily routine a little sweeter. We live not by bread alone, but by bread as well.
ZENIT: What do women, especially Catholic women, want this Valentine’s Day?
Teti: Most of our readers mentioned looking forward to simple pleasures: a card, a little chocolate, perhaps a single rose. Some were hoping for an opportunity to dress up a little and go out; others were hoping for a quiet evening in.
Whatever form their fancy took, however, what all the married women who responded were hoping for was concentrated time with their husbands.
The desire seems to be to break the daily routine of chores and obligations, and just be able to enjoy each other’s company for awhile.
One woman laughingly did ask for sapphire earrings, but said she wasn’t expecting them this year. She was thinking many years down the road — perhaps one extravagant Valentine’s Day just once in her married life.
ZENIT: What do wives particularly look for from their husbands?
Teti: That is too big a question! I will narrow my answer to one thing that seems relevant to Valentine’s Day.
Thanks to Venerable John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” the Church understands more deeply than ever the meaning of the line from Genesis: “male and female he created them.”
In other words, man and woman together present to mankind an image of God.
The vocation of woman is to reveal God’s beauty to the world.
Woman is made to be beautiful. Our culture’s emphasis on physical beauty is not wrong, but it is shallow, and often misdirected.
The deepest way a woman is beautiful is when she reveals to others their own goodness by teaching them the love God has for them. This is the “feminine genius:” to reveal the goodness of the human person, and thus the beauty of God.
What Mother Teresa of Calcutta did for the poor, every woman can do in her environment, and certainly every mother does in her home for her husband and children.
This is the most satisfying and happy “work” of women, but there remains in every woman an emotional need to feel her beauty is appreciated.
So one of the best things a husband can do for his wife is give a little assurance now and then that she is still beautiful in his eyes: in spite of wrinkles, stretch marks, perhaps the weight gain that can come with bearing children, cooking for them, and taking more care of others than oneself.
That’s the real meaning of a romantic gesture for most wives, I think: It’s a sign she is appreciated not just as cook and chauffer and governess and maid, but as wife.
ZENIT: How can Catholic families celebrate St. Valentine’s Day?
Teti: Faith & Family readers have lots of good ideas. Some of them study the various saints named Valentine.
Some make it a day to remember people who might otherwise be forgotten by taking valentine cards to sick or elderly shut-ins.
Almost everyone makes it an occasion to exchange cards with family members, celebrating the family’s love for one another.
And, of course, there must be heart-shaped desserts.
ZENIT: Valentine’s Day has its roots in Christianity. There are actually several St. Valentines who were martyrs in the early Church. What is it about this Christian holiday that appeals to popular culture so much that they have embraced it as well?
Teti: I think we have Geoffrey Chaucer to thank for that. Not much is known about any of the St. Valentines, but they were martyrs, and there does not seem to have been any association of the day with romance until Chaucer wrote a poem about the marriage of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.
Chaucer made St. Valentine the patron saint of the marriage, and his poem also included allusions to Cupid and Venus. After that, there seems to have been a conflation of Cupid and St. Valentine, and Valentine’s Day came to be associated with the “courtly love” of the medieval courts.
It’s from the tradition of courtly love that the practice of sending a “valentine” in secret comes about. Or so the historians say!
ZENIT: In popular culture, it can seem that Valentine’s day has become more of a day about sex and being sexy than about love. Is there a place for both on this day?
Teti: Catholicism isn’t puritanical. The Catholic approach to culture has always been to embrace what is wholesome and overcome what is evil with good.
Of course there is no necessity to celebrate Valentine’s Day; it’s not a holy day of obligation!
But for those who choose to observe it, there’s no reason it can’t be an opportunity to celebrate human love in all its dimensions — including the romantic and erotic, which are part of God’s gift to husbands and wives.
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On the Net:
Rebecca Ryskind Teti’s Faith and Family blog: www.faithandfamilylive.com