“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)”
Every February 14th, we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Traditionally in the United States, it is a holiday for expressing love, whether romantic or platonic, with candy, flowers and cards. Children pass out Valentine cards and tiny heart shaped candy to their classmates. Husbands bring their wives flowers and chocolates, sometimes jewelry. Many couples celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner. Kids give their parents homemade construction paper Valentines.
While the florists, greeting card companies and candy companies tell us that February 14th is the day that we should express love to one another, the Church teaches us to love our neighbor every day. The Principle of the Human Person, the bedrock principle of the Ten Foundational Principles in the Social Teaching of the Church, is the idea that every person is worthy of respect. Each human being is worthy of respect no matter what- regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, health, intelligence, employment, achievement or economic status, or any other characteristic.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church teaches that “every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect as a member of the human family.” The Church teaches that every person, from the moment of conception until natural death, inherently has dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Being human is an automatic entitlement to dignity. God is the sole source of our human dignity, and no human being can take it away. A person cannot earn dignity nor can he or she lose their dignity.
Since Catholic social thought revolves around humans being part of a family, or members of the community, individual dignity transfers upon the individual a place in the community, or membership in the human family. Everyone in the human family deserves to be valued and respected.
This Valentine’s Day, reflect upon loving your brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus taught his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Act with compassion and love towards your neighbor, no matter their situation. As part of the human family, we need to look after our brothers and sisters. There are so many members of our human community who are suffering, impoverished, in need of basic life essentials or in emotional pain. We can lift them up. Transforming lives is possible. See the face of Christ in every member of the human family.
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community for you to transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.”