UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

What love looks like

February is for prisoners, too

By Carolyn Pogue

February is a surprisingly full month, coming as it does in the sleepy, dark wintertime. It begins with groundhogs and ends with leaping. In between we have Black history, healthy hearts, love and the Women’s Memorial March for missing and murdered women. And, if we enter the spirit of St. Valentine, prisoners.

You may recall the story of the Roman priest, which I retold in my book Seasons of Peace: Father Valentine lived in the reign of Claudius, an emperor remembered as a heartless man who enjoyed sending young men to battle. Over time, he found that fewer men wanted to serve in his army. They didn’t want to die in battle, but to stay home with lovers, wives and children.

Claudius introduced conscription and then outlawed weddings for the young. But even emperors cannot stop people from falling in love. Secretly, they still married. One priest performing these weddings was Valentine. His conscience told him that banning marriages and promoting war was backwards. “Promote love,” he said, “and ban war.”

One night, walking a lonely street, he was attacked. Bursting from the shadows, four men grabbed him, beat him and marched him to a damp prison.

Awaiting word of his fate, Valentine befriended Sofia, a compassionate girl who brought him watery soup each day. They became friends. When the jailer announced Valentine’s execution, Sofia was heartbroken. On February 14, 269, the last morning of his life, Valentine asked for paper, ink and a feather. Perched on his wooden stool, he composed a note to Sofia, signing it “Your Valentine.”

There are many ways to give our hearts. We can give it to a person, a group, a just cause. Elda Thomas would have liked Sofia. Throughout her adult life, Elda, a member of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto, has lived a life of compassion. Working with support organizations like the Bridge, she befriends ex-convicts, the ones most of society don’t want to think about. She once told me, “I don’t pretend to understand it all — I didn’t grow up with violence or alcohol, or with a mom in the sex trade, for example. And I don’t condone what the guys have done. But if they are willing to try to walk a new path, away from crime and violence, then I will walk with them.”

Elda’s life’s work has earned the trust and respect of people abandoned by mainstream society. She also received a Caring Canadian Award in 1999 for her efforts.

It is bewildering that these days, our federal government is dismantling working farms that have been proven to rehabilitate inmates and is instead building mega-prisons that we already know will fail inmates and fail society.

This February, I thank God for people who show us love in the deepest sense of the word.


Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image