Valentine rose early for his prayers. The night was still holding itself against the break of dawn, but there were a few streaks of red in the eastern sky. He would walk from his small abode and set forth for the open woods outside of the town. Everyone was still asleep and he enjoyed the solitude and peace. He would walk slowly through the town and bless each door as he passed. He always chose a different route for his Morning Prayer and would cover all the houses in a week’s time. His stature was not tall and he was thin, so if an old woman were to peer from her window in the early morning dusk, she would perhaps think the figure of Valentine was a ghost. This was especially true today because the fog was coming thick with the day and the mist swept across the small streets and alleys rising only to the top of the houses.
He walked from the town and outside of the gates. It had been three weeks since the soldiers had left for their northern tour and the field was still sprinkled with their remnants. Old metals shields and pots lingered around black frozen campfires and the bare ground was just beginning to recover with shoots of weeds and dandelions. The nights were cold in this part of the valley but the days would warm and allowed the vegetation and flowers to bloom in the sun-filled afternoon.
This was Valentine’s favorite part of the day. He would spend hours just past the open fields and before the woods grew thick with trees. The ground rose from the town and began to descend at the beginning of the forest. In between the two there rose a plateau looking over the glorious mountains of the east and north. There would be dark shadows against the paling sky when Valentine approached, but by the end of his first prayers the color would bask a glorious purple. Today he saw the first glimpse of white on the caps and knew the snow had fallen in the night. Here in this majestic sight, he would feel the presence of God and ask him for his guidance. He would sing his vespers as the coming sun rose over the mountains in the brilliant awakening of another of God’s perfect miracles.
Valentine had grown to love the countryside of his small parish and saw God in every minute detail of nature. Nowhere else in the day could Valentine clearly see God’s divine plan with such clarity. He would allow himself to feel the wind and growing warmth against his face and arms as he rose to meet the day.
The last hour he would turn to the town and pray for the people. The machinations of men did not comfort as easily as nature. He would stay focused on the humanity struggling to find reason and peace in the daily hardships and sacrifices. He prayed for strength for God’s people in the face of war and taxes, sickness and death, infidelity and anger. His prayers scanned the litany of hardships the people faced. He asked for faith. He prayed for his own weaknesses to be forgiven and guidance in his daily work. He prayed for God’s church to grow and prosper in the land and the world. He prayed for Jesus’ love to fill all his days and works. This was the prayer of a humble servant. He spoke these prayers to the wind. He would cry and laugh as he spoke of his past day and hopes and fears of the present and future.
Here on the high plateau outside of town, God answered each prayer and filled Valentine with faith. On this day, Valentine cried at the visage of the splenderous mountains and sky. He spoke quiet and knelt in homage to the breaking of the day. He was bent in earnest to hear the words of comfort from God. The sun had rose fully when Valentine had finished and was walking home.
The town was in full life when he approached the gates and saw the smiles and waves of the people going about their business. He was still in the trance of his meditation as he walked closer and closer to town. Each step took him farther from the plateau of prayer and the peace he found there. Today he was startled with the heavy pounding of horses in the distance. He knew their speed and the trouble they brought. He must hurry and eat for he would need his strength for the day and the coming news.
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