Happy St Valentine’s Day!
A Consecrated Day
The quote above is from from Chaucer's Parlement of Foules (Parliament of Fowls).
During the middle ages, it was taught that birds began to pair around this time of the year. “For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens.”
It is thought that Chaucer was the first one to connect St Valentine with "courting" and it caught on. One correspondence tells of the matchmaking efforts of a mother, Dame Elizabeth Brews, for her daughter. The match was successful and went down in history.
The Dame Brews wrote:
And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine's Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.
A letter authored by the daughter reveals the outcome of the pairing:
Unto my rightwell beloved Valentine, John Paston Esquire.
We all know that there are many today who stand to make a profit from the “arrows of cupid” and all of those love letters and kind words. Who hasn't participated in the exchange of gifts and cards on this day? In this regard, it's a wonderful thought.
But here's the problem. The celebration has become so mainstream that even Catholics are hard pressed to explain who St Valentine actually was. And for many, it has become just a day of flowers, candy and pretty hearts.
St Valentine's feast day on February 14th was listed on the General calendar until 1969 at which time his name was removed. This does not mean, however, that he had been stripped of his sainthood as some think:
The purpose of the reordering of the liturgical year and of the norms accomplishing its reform, therefore, is that through faith, hope, and love the faithful may share more deeply in the whole mystery of Christ as it unfolds throughout the year.
To put [the] decrees of the Council into effect, the names of some saints have been deleted from the General Calendar, and permission was granted to restore the memorials and veneration of other saints in those areas with which they have been traditionally associated. The removal of certain lesser-known saints from the Roman calendar has allowed the addition of the names of martyrs from regions where the Gospel spread later in history. Here.
St Valentine in History
Details surrounding the life of St Valentine, the actual person, are sketchy. It is known that there are at least three early Christian saints (and from eight to twelve, if you count recent canonizations) who held this name and all were martyred.
Of the earlier saints, “one is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way… of both of these St Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value.” Some have argued that these two Roman Valentines were actually the same person. The third notable Valentine, from Africa, suffered martyrdom with his companions.
Another source, Golden Legends, are often embellished stories and although historical, they cannot be proved accurate.
Time to Reflect If you wish to venerate the relic of St Valentine you might pay a visit the Relic Chapel of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri.
The late-medieval author Chaucer (c. 1343–1400) observed "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne" ("The life so short, the craft so long to learn", the first line of the Parlement of Foules)
A medieval lead coffin with a heart affixed to it has been unearthed in France.
Notes, Art, Photography CMJENTZ ©2013-2018
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