Valentine’s Day Object Lesson:  Philos – Eros – Agape Love

Agape love is far more important in life than philos (brotherly) love or eros (romantic) love, which most people celebrate on Valentine’s Day. Agape is God’s unconditional love, which we should be teaching children consistently. Yet it is difficult to practice, let alone teach! How do you make unconditional love appealing, desirable, or even understandable to kids? Sometimes a story works best. This true story about a little girl named Maria shows agape love at its finest” and it will work in your students’ hearts on Valentine’s Day to help make love complete.

Household object

Play dough, homemade or store bought, in white, pink, and red. (Other colors will work if these are not obtainable).

Other Materials

– Rolling pin or round smooth surface to substitute, such as a soda can
– Dessert plate
– White Valentine’s Day paper doily
– Pencil


Place the cookie cutters and three balls of clay ““ one pink, one red, one white – in front of you or your assistant. Bring the white one forward and, using a pencil with a broken point, carve into it a smiley face and girl-curls.

Lesson – “When Maria forgave Allessandro”

Put the white play-dough smiley face in front of the other clay balls.

Maria was an 11-year-old girl living on a farm. There was always a lot to do, and there weren’t many friends nearby. But Maria felt philos love for the animals. Philos love means brotherly love or friendship love.

Have your assistant roll out the pink ball and begin making a pink heart using the  largest cookie cutter. When she is finished, she should place the heart on the plate on top of the doily.

It’s when you feel especially close to a person or even a pet. Maria loved the  sheep the best, but also spoke to the chickens, and in all their cackle, believed they were speaking back. She called them her friends.

On Valentine’s Day, philos love is what children celebrate. You give Valentines to friends because you “love” them and want them to know you appreciate their friendship.

Maria also saw eros love between her mother and father. Eros means romantic love.

Have your assistant roll out the red ball and begin making a red heart using the middle-sized cookie cutter. When she is finished, she should place the red heart on top of the pink heart.

They were hard-working and often had problems. But Maria’s mom would do special little things for her dad, like make his favorite meal or leave him a note expressing her love, for no reason. It didn’t have to be Valentine’s Day! Maria’s faith was strong. But when her father died suddenly, she had to have extra, extra faith. All of a sudden, Mother had to work extra hard to provide for the children. And Maria could see it in Mother’s face, how much she missed her husband and the eros love they had shared for so many years.

Maria had felt philos love. She had seen eros love. She knew God and wanted to feel agape love, which is the total love that God feels for us.

Bring Maria’s head forward.

Agape love is what sent Jesus to the cross for our sins. Agape love is the most important of Christian concepts.

Romans 5:8 explains it easily: “¦God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus loved people who didn’t love him back. He loved no matter what, and that’s what agape love is – loving no matter what.

Wouldn’t it be nice to feel love for people, no matter what? How do we do that? I’m not always sure myself. But some people figure it out. And Maria did–after something terrible happened. When she was 11, a boy worked on the farm. He said he wanted eros love with her. She said she was way too young to think that way, and it would be a sin in God’s eyes. The boy tried to kiss her one day, and when she refused he brought out a knife and stabbed her 14 times.

While she was in the hospital, Maria began to pray for the boy, for all his pain and suffering that had led to him becoming a violent person. She asked God to please forgive him. Her mom prayed with her and was amazed that a little girl could forgive something so terrifying and so painful– something that was sucking the life out of her.

The following day, Maria died. Completely flatten the white head.

Allessandro, the boy, was sentenced to 30 years for murder. In prison, he had a very vivid dream, where Maria came down from heaven, smiling, and she presented him with a gift of flowers. He hadn’t seen anything so beautiful in a long time in the dingy prison. The dream was so real that he became a changed person. He never again did anything violent, and he contacted Maria’s mother to apologize for all the pain and suffering he had caused. Roll the white around to remake it into a ball.

Around the time Allessandro was finally released from prison, the pope decided that Maria should be a saint and a martyr for her choice to resist a sin, and most especially for forgiving the person who sinned against her. At the ceremony, Allessandro and Maria’s mother went together. People saw them coming forth through the crowds together. They were amazed. What they were seeing was agape love.

Today, when someone is murdered, on the television you will often hear family members of the victim wishing the person would get the death penalty or even spend eternity in hell for having hurt them and their loved one. They say this is justice. This is the happy ending for them.

Agape love says differently. The happy ending is when a terrible person can be touched, be forgiven, be sorry, and dine with the victim in heaven. This is God’s love for us.

Have your assistant use the smallest cookie cutter to make a heart out of Maria’s head. Place it on the top of the hearts on the plate as the final piece. Draw the smile face on again if it has been crushed.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned; all fall short of the glory of God.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty”

We all need God’s agape love. And” God asks us all to do our best to pass it along. Maria forgave the person who took her life, and so did her mother. Their forgiveness changed Allessandro.

Are you mad at a friend who broke your iPad, stole your clothes, kicked your cat, or didn’t text you back when you needed to talk?

Who can you forgive?

Have you had a friend gossip about you? Steal your best friend? Forget a get-together? Lie to your face?

Who can you forgive?

Is there someone in your class who is lonely? Maybe because he or she is annoying? Is it because they are poor? Or different? Or physically or mentally challenged?

Whom can you show love to when it’s not entirely easy?

Maria Goretti was canonized by Pope Pius XII in St. Peter’s Square in June of 1950. That means she was officially declared a saint. At age 11, she was the youngest saint ever recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. She is called the Patron Saint of Modern Youth. It’s Valentine’s Day weekend.

Let’s make it a goal to keep Maria in our hearts and try to love those who hurt us, or even annoy us. Let’s try to be kind to everyone, because that’s what agape love really is to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.


You might also be interested in these other awesome Valentine’s Day craft, snack & activity ideas!

love of god cupcakes valentines day snacklove butterflies valentines day craft


Looking for more Valentine’s Day object lesson ideas?  Then be sure to check out our Object Lessons area!  And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, Follow Us on Twitter and Come Hangout with Us on Google+!


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