Page 8, 7th February 2003

7th February 2003
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Page 8, 7th February 2003 — In the hearts of
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In the hearts of

the young, there is still love and hope

Personal view Fiorella Sultana de Maria

I( is unromantic to say it, but St Valentine's Day has the potential to be

either ungovernably embarrassing or a hassle. It is not so much the fact that every restaurant in town will be charging double prices on ate night or that sitting at table at all will involve tissue paper love hearts and inflatable Cupids: it is the Pude awakening that faces any couple at such a time; namely, that Valentine's Day no longer has anything to do with love.

I first became alerted to this problem when my bbyfriend complained last year that he had been unable to find me an appropriate Valentine's card.

They were either tacky or Sordid, awash with innuenads, obscene references and cheap jokes. It was not that they were a little risque or Sentimental, they simply failed to express love at all, substituting the divine gift in all its awesome splendour and beauty with trite, grotesque nonsense.

It is a sad fact that for many members of my generation, Aquinas's maxim, "love and do what you will" reads more as "take the pill and do as you will". Rather like the characters in Huxley's Brave New World, we are expected to be physically intimate with just about anyone but emotionally and spiritually intimate with noone.

Incredulity is expressed towards those who do not "shop around a bit" by the same people who then wonder why treating their girl/boyfriends as lifestyle accessories did not lead to a particularly meaningful or stable relationship. If a partner is a lifestyle commodity, they will almost certainly lose their appeal or Malfunction sooner or later.

On the reverse side, there is a small minority who go to the other extreme in the attempt to avoid temptation, refusing to watch any film that is not a "U" certificate, covering up every inch of flesh up to the neck and living in fear of "the physical side of things" in the belief that they might be magically swept away entirely against their own wills.

I have even been told that I should not have studied English Literature because it meant reading nasty books with unsavoury themes; but refusing to engage with the world in any shape or form out of fear is sheer cowardice.

We cannot evangelise with paper bags over our heads. Catholicism will never regain its credibility if Catholics either succumb to the temptations of the secular world without a thought

or appear perpetually terrified of doing so.

This is not to say that some fears are entirely groundless, given the excesses that Cool Britannia went to last year in the quest for false love. A certain abortion provider wins the prize for having most comprehensively lost the Valentine's Day plot by offering men a certain cutprice operation (if you will pardon the unfortunate pun) around the time of February 14th. It was marketed as a courageous sacrifice for love and apparently they even issued a certificate for the man to give to his partner as a souvenir.

I can think of a really courageous and unusual act of love that my boyfriend will be performing on Valentine's Day, as on any evening when we might meet. After an enjoyable evening spent in a restaurant/cinema/theatre/concert hall, he will walk me to my front door, kiss me good night and walk away. No sedation necessary.

"What?" cries the "signs of the times' brigade. "What do the Youth 2000/FAITH brigade think they're playing at?" But the Catholic understanding of love in all its richness is one of the most important gifts that the Church has to offer our generation.

I think it is Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring who says, "there is weakness, there is frailty, but there is courage too and honour in the hearts of men".

Something along those lines might be said today when the tawdry Valentine's Day paraphernalia becomes a little too sickening. Yes, there is promiscuity, there is shallowness but there is beauty and love and hope too in the hearts of the young




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