Feb 14 - St Valentine (d. 269)
here is a beautiful shrine to St Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitfriar Street, Dublin, where his relics are also kept. Patrick Duffy
tells about the celebration of his feast and two stories about the saint.
How many Valentines?
At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14th February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni); both seem to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Via Flaminia, but at different distances from the city. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered and died in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.
Celebration of the feast
It may be that the cult of the two Italian Valentines – one based in Rome, the other in Terni – became confused. Both are listed on 14th February in the the current Roman Martyrology (2004 - the Catholic Church's official list of saints), but in the revised General Calendar for universal liturgical celebration (1969) the celebration was removed, possibly because of a lack of accurate historical information; it is probably seen as belonging more to the realm of popular piety than liturgical celebration. However, St Valentine is celebrated liturgically as a simple feast by Traditional Roman Catholics who use the Roman Missal (Tridentine Rite) of Pope John XXIII (1962).
A feast for lovers
The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day as a feast for lovers - sending flowers, tokens of love and Valentine cards - may have come from the belief that on 14th February, that is, half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. In Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
Relics at the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar St, Dublin
Relics of St Valentine are venerated in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar St in Dublin. The history given is that in 1835 Fr John Spratt, the then Prior of the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar St, Dublin, on a visit to Rome received the relics of St Valentine martyr from Pope Gregory XVI (1835) and installed them in his church, where they became an object of great devotion. The website of the Irish Carmelites tells two stories about Valentine which give some indication why this devotion developed.
1. Why St Valentine is patron of lovers
The first story locates the story of Valentine's patronage of lovers in a tradition of ancient Rome. 14th February was a holiday to honour Juno - the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia, an early form of Carnivale or Mardi Gras.
Although in ancient Rome the lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate, one of the customs associated with the eve of the festival of Lupercalia was name drawing: the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and they would then be partners for the duration of the festival. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II (268-270 AD), Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular military campaigns. Claudius was having a difficult time getting soldiers to go to the army. He believed the reason was that Roman men did not want to leave their loves or their families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. But Valentine was a priest who would secretly marry any couples who came to him. For this he was taken captive and brought before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th February, in either 269 or 270.
2. Valentine's power of healing and the origin of Valentine cards
Another story about St Valentine may explain the origin of the custom of giving flowers and a card on St Valentine's Day. One day the emperor's jailer came to Valentine's house clutching his little blind daughter in his arms. He had heard that Valentine had healing powers and begged him to treat his daughter's blindness. She had been blind since birth. Valentine knew that her condition would be difficult to cure but he said he would do his best. After examining the little girl, he gave her father some ointment for the girl's eyes and asked him to bring her back again.
The father, seeing Valentine was a man of learning, asked whether his daughter, called Julia, could also be brought to Valentine for lessons. Valentine told the girl stories of Rome’s history and described the world of nature. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She began to see the world through his eyes, trusting in his wisdom and finding comfort in his strength. One day she asked if God really existed and Valentine assured her that He did. She went on to tell him how she prayed morning and night that she might be able to see and Valentine told her that whatever happened would be God’s will and would be for the best. They sat and prayed together for a while. The girl’s sight was not restored, but the prison guard and his daughter never wavered in their faith and kept coming back each week. But one day, Valentine was arrested by Roman soldiers who destroyed his medicines. When the little girl’s father learned of his arrest and imprisonment, he wanted to intervene but there was nothing he could do.
Knowing his execution was imminent, Valentine asked the jailer for a paper, pen and ink. He quickly jotted a farewell note and handed it to the jailer to give to his blind daughter. He urged her to stay close to God, and he signed it: "From Your Valentine". Next day he was put to death.
When the jailer went home and met his little girl, she opened the note and found a yellow crocus inside. The message said: "From your Valentine". As the little girl looked down upon the crocus that spilled into her palm she saw brilliant colours for the first time in her life! The girl’s eyesight had been restored.
It is said that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.
[caption id="attachment_76995" align="aligncenter" width="419"] ... a small glass box containing a beflowered skull that held all the thoughts of St. Valentine himself - if you believe the label affixed to its forehead![/caption]
Feb 14 - Ss Cyril and Methodius (2) - Patrons of Europe
Fr John Murray PP
tells the story of the two Greek monks who became evangelisers of the Slavic people and how Pope John Paul II made them co-patrons of Europe with St Benedict.
From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of Europe as 'breathing with two lungs'. In that first decade from his election in 1978, Europe was still divided and people in the west had forgotten about the countries behind the 'Iron Curtain' as belonging to Europe.
Saint Benedict's place as patron of Europe was never in question. So it must have given the Pope, the 'man from a far country', great pride to declare two co-patrons of Europe on 31 December 1980.
Tradition tells us that the two brothers, Methodius and Constantine (he did not take the name Cyril until just before his death), grew up in Thessaloniki (Greece) as sons of a prominent Christian family. We know that Constantine was born in 827. Both were highly intelligent men and while Methodius became an important civil official, his brother became a scholar and professor in the great city of Constantinople.
Because many Slays came to live in their area of Greece, the brothers had become proficient in the Slavic languages. Their first missionary journey was into Ukraine. Later Rastislav, a prince in Moravia (modern-day Czech Republic), invited them into his territory. The motive was not entirely spiritual; the prince was struggling for independence from German influence. He felt that Christian missionaries from the east, replacing the German missionaries, would help him to consolidate power in his own country, especially if they spoke the Slavonic language. Before they even left on their mission, Constantine constructed a script for Slavonic, a script which became the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet named after him.
The brothers were keen to help and were firm believers in translating the liturgy into the local language, whereas the custom in the west was to use Greek or Latin (as it was until Vatican II). When the brothers appealed to Rome - in the issue of having some Slavic candidates ordained for the priesthood - , the Pope - with his own reasons too - approved the use of Slavonic in services and ordained the men Methodius and Constantine had forwarded. The brothers also translated the New Testament and the Psalms into the Slavonic language.
Sadly, Constantine would never return to Moravia, and he died in Rome where he had assumed the monastic habit and taken on the name by which history remembers him. There is also an Irish slant to Cyril's story. Cyril had laboured hard during his lifetime to return the relics of Saint Clement (the fourth bishop of Rome) to the city and this he did in 867. The martyred Pope was interred in the church of his name on the street which runs from the Colosseum to St. John Lateran Basilica. Cyril died not long afterwards (14 February 869) and was buried also in the same church.
[caption id="attachment_91801" align="aligncenter" width="309"] San Clemente Basilica in Rome holds the tombs of Ss Cyril and Methodius in an underground Basilica.
Ironically the tomb of Cyril was somehow 'lost' when the 12th century basilica was later built on top of the 4th century one. It wasn't until Fr. Joseph Mullooly, the Irish Dominican prior of St. Clement's, did some excavations in 1868-70 that the tomb of the Slav saint - as well as the 4th century church and 1st century buildings - was rediscovered. In 2007 the Irish Post Office honoured Fr. Mullooly, featuring him on a number of stamps.
Methodius meanwhile was grief-stricken with the death of his brother and he too, wanted to retire to a monastery but his brother's dying wish was that he should return to his missionary endeavours. Cyril had said to him, 'Listen, my brother, we have shared the same destiny, ploughing the same furrow... I know your love for your mountain (monastery) but do not for the sake of the mountain give up your work of teaching.'
Methodius continued to spread the gospel to other regions of Eastern Europe and seminaries were founded in Bulgaria and what is modern-day Belarus and Ukraine. Methodius himself was ordained as archbishop of Pannonia (modern Hungary) and became Papal legate for the Slavic peoples. However his life was not without difficulty, even to the point of spending two years in prison, only being set free by the personal intervention of Pope John VII. The work of inculcating the scriptures and the liturgy into the language of the people he served was continually being regarded with suspicion. In latter years he also translated further books of the Bible into the languages he and his brother loved so much.
In his encyclical, Slavorum Apostoli
('the Apostles of the Slavs', June 1985) Pope John Paul II spoke of the brothers as ideal examples of the true missionary spirit - faithful to the traditions which had formed them and yet endeavouring to understand the peoples to whom they were sent. They had endeavoured successfully to create an alphabet and a literature for the languages which they encountered. Yet constantly they submitted their work to the judgement of the Apostolic See which they saw as the visible sign of the Church's unity. The prayer of Jesus, 'that they may be one', was indeed their motto.
Pope John Paul II concluded his encyclical with a beautiful prayer: 'Great God, One in Trinity, I entrust to you the heritage of the faith of the Slav nations. Preserve and bless this work of yours! Grant to the whole of Europe, O most Holy Trinity - through the intercession of the two holy brothers - to feel the need for religious and Christian unity and for a communion of all its peoples. The Pope of Slav origin thanks you for calling the Slav nations into the communion of the faith. May it never fail!'
The feast of Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe with Benedict, is celebrated each year on 14 February.
This article first appeared in The Messenger
(February 2008), a publication of the Irish Jesuits.
Feb 14 - Saints Cyril (1) (d 869) and Methodius (d. 885)
two brothers from Thessalonica in Greece became apostles of the Slavs, translated the Scriptures and indigenised the liturgy for the Slav people. In 1980 they were named by Pope John Paul II along with St Benedict as co-patrons of Europe. Slavic peoples celebrate these two saints with a national holiday. Patrick Duffy
tells their story.
Evangelisers of the Slavs
Cyril (827-869) and Methodius (825-885) were the evangelisers of the Slavs. They translated the Bible into the Old Church Slavic language and, against all the odds, created an indigenous Slavic liturgy. They invented an alphabet (first called Glagolitic and later, after some modifications, Cyrillic) that is today used for Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Serbian. Pope John Paul II considered these two saints such pillars of civilisation that in 1980 he proclaimed them “co-patrons of Europe” along with St Benedict and five years later wrote an encyclical letter Slavorum Apostoli
commemorating their work. In hindsight after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, we can now appreciate the prophetic nature of his action.
Administrators and linguists
Born in Thessaloniki of a Greek military-officer father and a Slavic mother, the brother's upbringing was multi-cultural. As their father died young, their uncle Theoctistes, who was responsible for the postal services and the diplomatic relations of the Byzantine empire, brought them to Constantinople. Cyril studied philosophy and theology at the university under Photius who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, while Methodius was placed as a commander of a Slavic administrative region of the empire. Both were gifted scholars and linguists.
After his education Cyril was ordained and became a monk. Soon he was teaching philosophy and theology and held the important position of chartophylax
(keeper of the archives) and secretary to the patriarch. The fact that he was both a linguist, having learned Arabic and Hebrew, and a theologian led to his being sent first on a diplomatic mission to discuss the Trinity with Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad and later on a missionary expedition to the Khazars in the Crimea.
Meanwhile Methodius had moved through the administrative and political ranks of the Byzantine empire to become a monastic abbot.
Missionaries and inculturation conflict
In 862 the Emperor Michael III (842-867) and the Patriarch Photius received a request from Prince Rastislav of Greater Moravia (a territory that covers present day Czech Republic, Slovakia and parts of Hungary) to send missionaries to evangelise his Slavic people. Rastislav had already had some intrusion from German missionaries and was anxious for support from Constantinople to keep his kingdom independent. He also wanted a teacher who could instruct his people and celebrate the liturgy in the Slavonic language. The brothers Cyril and Methodius were entrusted with the task.
They began their preparation by training assistants and translating the bible into the language that is now known as Old Church Slavonic. They then travelled to Greater Moravia to promote it, but came into conflict with German clerics (Archbishop Theotmar of Salzburg and Passau) firstly because they came from Constantinople which had a reputation for schism but also because of their efforts to create a Slavic liturgy.
Journey to Rome
As a result of this conflict, Pope Nicholas I (858-867) invited the brothers to Rome but he died before they arrived. His successor Adrian II (867-872) warmly received them and approved their project of a Slavic liturgy in Moravia. Pope Adrian also decided to ordain Cyril and Methodius bishops, but Cyril died in Rome on 4th February, 869 and did not return to Moravia.
Cyril buried at San Clemente
In the lower Basilica under San Clemente on Via Labicana Rome, which is cared for by the Irish Dominicans, there is a chapel to Cyril and Methodius and in the 4th century basilica underneath there is an altar to St Cyril under which it is possible that his relics lie. (A legend tells that Saint Clement had been exiled to the Crimea by the emperor Trajan and was drowned there tied to an anchor, that Cyril found his relics there while on his way to evangelise the Khazars, kept them and brought them to Rome to ensure a good reception for himself and that Pope Adrian II placed them in the high altar. Unlikely, but there!)
Second mission and more conflict
Pope Adrian II set up an archdiocese of Moravia ( = Czech Republic and Slovakia) and Pannonia (= Eastern Austria through Western Hungary to the River Danube) at the request of the Moravian princes, Rastislav and Svatopluk, and the Slav Prince Kocel of Pannonia and appointed Methodius archbishop. In 870 King Louis and the German bishops summoned Methodius to a synod at Ratisbon in Germany where he was deposed and imprisoned for three years. The next pope, John VIII (872-882), sent a personal representative to demand his liberation. He was immediately released and reinstated and continued to spread the faith among the Bohemians and the Poles in Northern Moravia.
Soon, however, he was called to Rome again to answer allegations of unorthodoxy brought against him by a German priest, Wiching. Again, he was vindicated and the Slavonic liturgy approved, but with a new requirement that at Mass the Gospel should be read, first in Latin, and then in Slavonic.
Wiching, in the meantime, had been nominated as one of the suffragan bishops of Methodius and continued to oppose his metropolitan. Methodius then returned to Constantinople where, with the help of several priests, he completed the translation of the Bible into Slavonic. Worn out by his long struggle and with no let-up in the antagonism of his opponents, he died on 6th April, 885.
Subsequent and present day influence
Methodius's influence in Moravia was wiped out after his death but was carried on to Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia, where the southern Slavonic language of Cyril and Methodius is still the liturgical language of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Cyrillic alphabet used in those countries today, traditionally ascribed to St. Cyril, was probably the work of his followers. It was based on the Glagolithic alphabet used by Cyril himself and still used by certain Croatian and Montenegrin Catholics.
Both brothers were canonised in Eastern Orthodoxy as “equal-to-apostles” and were included in the universal Roman Catholic Church Calendar by Pope Leo XIII in 1880.
A national holiday in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Macedonia
In the Czech Republic and in Slovakia today, 5th July is believed to be the date of the arrival of the two brothers to Greater Moravia in 863 and is kept as Saints Cyril and Methodius Day - a national holiday. In Bulgaria Cyril and Methodius Day is on 24th May. It is a national holiday celebrating Bulgarian culture and the invention of the Slavic alphabet. This date is also a national holiday in the Republic of Macedonia and is known as the day of "Salonica Brothers" (in Macedonian: Solunski braka
) from their place of origin.
Patrons of indigenisation of the Christian message and liturgy
Since their inculturation of Christianity was so successful in Eastern Europe and they were well received in Rome, it is easy to see how they have become not just pillars of European solidarity, but also patrons of indigenisation of the Christian message and liturgy in all the cultures to which it is brought.