Saint Valentine - out of sight, out of mind!
Saturday is Valentine's Day, so have a heart and be my "Cyril and Methodius!" Wait, isn't that supposed to read "Be my Valentine?" Evidently not any more in Church liturgy for in the liturgical calendar the martyred saint who made this day famous has been thrown out. Why? Good question since prior to Vatican II, the priest and martyr Saint Valentine was commemorated on this day and hence the origin of what has become a very lucrative day for greeting card companies, candy makers and florists today. Poor St. Valentine has been lost in the fray, replaced by Saints Cyril and Methodius, whose previous feast was July 7. So who replaced them on July 7th? No one. It remains a weekday in Ordinary Time after Pentecost. So why did the Church depose the legendary St. Valentine and move the Bulgarian missionaries to the coveted spot in which St. Valentine was entrenched? Another good question which we have no answer for and can find none except, like many saints, they were downsized and diminished in importance relating to the liturgy. Before Vatican II, almost every day in the liturgy was devoted to a saint; after the changes wrought by liturgical reformers more days were devoted to the seasonal "ordinary" of the Mass. This transition lost much in the translation, chiefly the example extended daily from each saint as a role model for the faithful. The virtues these saints exemplified are lost on so many today and that is truly sad. Cyril, a bishop, and Methodius, a missionary priest accomplished much, establishing the Slavic language which is called the Cyrillic alphabet and were responsible for countless conversions. But, like so much that the liturgists gutted in regard to Latin, a truly Latin saint has been usurped by a non-Latin one or, in this case, duo. What's even worse is that, at the time, there was much consternation within the Church regarding Cyril and Methodius' abandonment of Latin for the Slav dialect. St. Valentine was a Roman priest and a physician who assisted Saint Marius (another Roman saint who was displaced by ordinary time) in ministering to the physical and spiritual and assisting the many martyrs persecuted under the reign of the vindictive Roman emperor Claudius II, who incarcerated Valentine and made every cruel effort to get the saint to forsake his faith. Valentine would have none of it and thus Claudius ordered the loyal priest be beaten with heavy clubs and beheaded. He was executed on February 14th, 270 and buried on the Flaminian Way, where seventy years later Pope Julius I decreed a basilica be built in his honor. Research by Church historians uncovered the fact Valentine was also the bishop of Terni, sixty miles from Rome, but held his priestly duties above any exalted office in order to better reach the people. The gate leading to the church that was completed in 350 was called Porta Valentini. Most relics attributed to this saint reside in the Church of Saint Praxedes.
There are many myths about the origin of St. Valentine's Day, but there are also facts that substantiate that it evolved as a Church feast to counteract a Roman pagan feast. Some believe that when Valentine was jailed by Claudius, the children of the martyred parents, relatives and friends sent him notes of love and encouragement. Other historians report that Valentine willingly married young Christian couples even though the Roman authorities forbid it, but Valentine believed it was important to perpetuate life through the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony and procreation as God intended so Christianity could spread from the seeds of the martyrs. Another claim for how Valentines' Day began was that many pastors and bishops demanded it to counter the Roman pagan feast on February 15th of the goddess Februata Juno. On that day the emphasis was on the heathen practice of boys picking the names of girls through a drawing with the outcome being they could do anything lewd and obscene they wished on that feast. Thus the Church unofficially, at first, established St. Valentine's Day to emphasize the virtue of marital love and courtship. From the fourth century on the Church acknowledged St. Valentine's Day on February 14th and in the middle ages, the custom of sending cards or "Valentines" began from the medieval belief that birds, returning from the winter refuge, began pairing on that day.
Over the years the Christian custom of St. Valentine's Day, evolved from a pagan event, has evolved back to a pagan event with the dropping of the moniker "Saint," becoming almost entirely commercial by the late nineteenth century. Today, as we all know, this feast has not only become a commercial bonanza with no trace of spirituality, but even Holy Mother Church has forsaken poor St. Valentine. Oh, we know he is enjoying his just reward in Heaven, but here on earth we lament a bit, for our heart goes out to poor Saint Valentine - out of sight and out of mind!
Michael Cain, editor