07 February 2008

Put the 'SAINT' back in St Valentine's Day

Opening Prayer from the Mass in honour of St Valentine

All powerful, ever living God,
You gave St Valentine the courage to witness to the
Gospel of Christ,
even to the point of giving his life for it.
By his prayers 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.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

For the last few years I've been trying to 'rehabilitate' St Valentine. Although he's not on the general calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church anymore - he's been replaced on 14 February by Sts Cyril and Methodius - he is still venerated by the Church. There is some confusion as to whether there were one or two saints by that name. I think there was only one. The heart of the matter for me is that he seems to have been a Roman priest who defied the Emperor Claudius in 269 or 270. The pagan emperor was trying to force people to worship the ancient Roman gods and in order to get more soldiers to fight his wars, he forbade young men from marrying. You can read all about this on a webpage of the Carmelite Order (OCarm) in Ireland.

There are relics of St Valentine in Whitefriar St Church, Dublin, which belongs to the Carmelites.

For me as a priest who has been involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter since 1982, St Valentine is a saint we need more than ever to pray for us, a priest who gave up his life in defence of the sacrament of marriage. WWME is one of the sponsors of World Marriage Day, 10 February.

Here in the Philippines St Valentine's Day is a day for the expression of innocent and real friendship for many young people, especially those still at school. But, sadly, for many it's a day of sin. Motels, which here are not places where travellers stay, are full.

Here is a photo of the saint's shrine in Whitefriar Street.

Whitefriar Street Church also has a shrine in honour of a modern martyr who was a priest and journalist, Blessed Titus Brandsma OCarm. You can see all the shrines in the church here. I remember reading that Blessed Titus preached at the church before the War, possibly during a novena in honour of St Valentine or one in honour of St Thérèse of Lisieux. I'm not sure.

The text on the shrine of Blessed Titus reads:


Born at Bolsward (The Netherlands) in 1861,Blessed Titus Brandsma joined the CarmeliteOrder as a young man. Ordained priest in 1905, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in Rome. He then taught in various schools inHolland and was named professor of philosophy and of the history of mysticism in the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he also served as Rector Magnificus. He was noted for his constant availability to everyone. He was a professional journalist, and in 1935 he was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. During the 1930’s he visited Ireland and stayed in Kinsale with the Carmelite Community there to improve his English before giving a series of lectures in theUnited States. Both before and during theNazi occupation of The Netherlands he fought, faithful to the Gospel, against the spread of the Nazi ideology and for the freedom of Catholic education and the Catholic press. For this he was arrested and sent to a succession of prisons and concentration camps where he brought comfort and peace to his fellow prisoners and did good even to his tormentors. In 1942, after much suffering and humiliations he was killed at Dachau. He was beatified by John Paul II on November 3rd, 1985.

Here is the Opening Prayer from the Mass in honour of Blessed Titus Brandsma (27 July)

Lord our God, source and giver of life,
you gave to Blessed Titus the Spirit of courage
to proclaim human dignity and the freedom of the Church
even in the throes of degrading persecution and death.
Grant us that same Spirit so that in the coming of your kingdom
of justice and peace we might never be ashamed of the Gospel
but be enabled to recognise your loving-kindness
in all the events of our lives.
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.


adelle said...

Fr. Sean, thank you for your blog about St. Valentines. It breaks the narrow concept of Valentines Day for romantic lovers only.(seemed many think like this)

Your blog gives a very Christian and healthy understanding of Valetines Day. Thus, all(parents & children and among friends are being encouraged to remember St. Valentines and value human frienship as a way to Incarnate God's goodness and love.

Advance Happy Valentines Fr. Sean!
lading cantona (Toronto, Canada)

Anonymous said...

Great post Fr..we have the relics of one St Valentine at the Oratory...

MTFR said...

I've learned to see Valentine's day as less of a commercial event ever since I read your article on it in Misyon a few years ago. Thanks for this post father!