Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine's Day

Many people in the English speaking world are not aware that our present celebration of Valentine's day and its relationship with romantic and erotic love is actually due to Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Parliament of Birds" also known with the older title "The Parliament of Fowls"

Chaucer is the first writer in literature to make a link between the martyr Valentine and marriage. He really "canonized" Valentine as the Patron Saint of Lovers! Here is a modern English translation of Chaucer's love poem.

And here is the famous line

"For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,"

From then on, Valentine was forever linked with Lovers.
But who is St Valentine? A Buddhist friend of mine has been enamored by the story of Valentine. She has done some reading and she told me that there are actually at least three Valentines and at most 14, all martyred for the Christian faith during Roman times. Traditionally the liturgical color for martyrs is red and so is for Valentine's day.

The Roman Church no longer has Valentine in its post 1969 calendar since the Church isn't sure of who among the 14 is to be commemorated. However there are three St Valentines we know some information about. One is the presbyter Valentine, another is a Bishop Valentine whose see is now in Terni, Italy and a soldier named Valentine who was beheaded in north Africa. These three Valentines were commemorated on Feb 14. While the  Greek Church commemorates the Valentines on July 30, Greeks often name their children as Valentine or Valentina if they were born on Feb 14!

The Anglican Communion still follows the older Roman Calendar and commemorates any of the 3 Valentines on Feb 14. The Roman Catholic Church never removed Valentine from the martyrology and thus lovers can still ask his intercession. However the feast is no longer in the general calendar but are on local calendars, especially in Italy.

Here is a collect for St Valentine as said by some Anglicans

"Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

In the Philippines, this saint's feast day has been so commercialized and worse objectifies people as either the dated or the dateless or just focuses on sex! Well of course some people have found true love and many are still searching for it. The truth of St Valentine's Day is none of us isn't loved! We are all challenged to return this love. And in the case of any of the 14 Valentines, they returned this love with their lives.

So All ye Holy 14 Valentines, pray for us to God!

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