Saturday, February 14, 2004

St Valentine, Priest & Martyr

As February 14 rolls round once again, everyone knows immediately that it is the feast day of. . . .Ss. Cyril and Methodius. Oh, yes it is. It's right there in your 2004 liturgical calendar. In a move that one would think even such an unimaginative bureaucrat as Annibale Bugnini would have had second thoughts about, the liturgical tinkerers removed one of the only two saints days that the average American could recognize. St. Valentine has vanished from the new calendar.

St. Valentine lives on, if marginally, in secular tradition. And, of course, he is still celebrated in those communties which use the 1962 calendar. The following notice of his life is from the Matins reading in an old breviary:

On this day is commemorated blessed Valentine, a priest of Rome who was martyred for Christ, probably in the persecution of Claudius the Goth, about the year 269. He was buried on the Flaminian Way; and about 350 a church was built over his tomb, and later a catacomb was constructed thereunder, wherein were buried the remains of many Martyrs This church, with its cemetery, was the first to greet the eyes of pilgrims coming to Rome to visit the sepulchers of the ancient heroes of the Faith, and therefore his cultus grew, and spread through the world. But in the early years of the ninth century, his body was transferred to the basilica of St. Praxedes, lest being outside the walls of the City, it should be desecrated by the Saracens. The popular story is that holy Valentine was cajoled with promises in order to wean him from Christ; and that when these failed he was beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded. In England, from the time of Chaucer onwards, there was a belief that on this feast-day the birds began to choose their mates. From which arose the custom of arranging betrothals in Saint Valentine’s Tide; and in honour of the fidelity of this servant of God, those who were betrothed called each other Valentine, as a pledge of their mutual fidelity in token that those who wed are united together in Christ, of whose unbreakable union with humanity in his Church, the Sacrament of Marriage is ever an outward and visible sign. -T.A.B.

The picture above is of the shrine of St. Valentine in the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin. (Officially it is the Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the principal church of the Ancient Observance Carmelites in Dublin.) Underneath the statue are the relics of St. Valentine, donated to the Irish Carmelites by Pope Gregory XVI. More about the church and the shrine and St. Valentine can be found here.