14 February 2023

Praying in Ordinary Time
with USPG: 14 February 2023

The shrine of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church at Whitefriar Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

These weeks, between the end of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, are known as Ordinary Time. We are in a time of preparation for Lent, which in turn is a preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Before today becomes a busy day, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

In these days of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday later this month (22 February), I am reflecting in these ways each morning:

1, reflecting on a saint or interesting person in the life of the Church;

2, one of the lectionary readings of the day;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today commemorates Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, Missionaries to the Slavs (869 and 885), and Saint Valentine, Martyr at Rome (ca 269).

Many people, especially young couples, are more likely to think today of Saint Valentin than of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius.

Thousands of locks may be secured to bridges and fences across Europe, in Verona people will try to visit Juliet’s supposed balcony where she was wooed by Romeo, and in Dublin many people may visit the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin, where Saint Valentine’s reliquary is traditionally taken from a special shrine in a side chapel and placed before the High Altar.

Saint Valentine is a widely believed to have been a third century Roman martyr. He is commemorated on 14 February, and since the High Middle Ages he has been associated with young love.

Yet, despite his popularity, we know nothing reliable about Saint Valentine apart from his name and the tradition that he died a martyr’s death on 14 February on the Via Flaminia, north of Rome. Many of the stories about his life are mythical and unreliable.

Popular legend says Valentine was a Roman priest who was martyred during the reign of Claudius II, Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned when he was caught marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted Christians.

It is said Claudius took a liking to this prisoner. But when Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate.

Many of the legends about Saint Valentine can be traced only to 14th century England and the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when 14 February was already linked with romantic love.

Because of these myths and legends, Saint Valentine was dropped from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969. Nevertheless, the ‘Martyr Valentinus who died on 14 February on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian Bridge in Rome’ is still on the list of officially recognised saints.

The day is also celebrated as Saint Valentine’s Day with a commemoration in Common Worship in the Church of England and in other churches in the Anglican Communion.

The relics of Saint Valentine were given by Pope Gregory XVI as a gift to Father John Spratt, an Irish Carmelite Prior, after he preached a popular sermon in the Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesu, in 1836. Since then, they have been kept in a shrine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin.

Although the story of Saint Valentine is inextricably linked with romantic young love, it is good to be reminded of love as we prepare for Lent, which begins next Wednesday, and that our Lenten pilgrimage is a journey towards fully accepting the love of God offered to us through Christ on Good Friday and Easter Day.

May those you love be a blessing to you, and may you be a blessing to those who love you.

Hearts for Saint Valentine’s Day in a shopfront in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Mark 8: 14-21 (NRSVA):

14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ 16 They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ 20 ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ 21 Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’

Street art near Borough Market in Southwark (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Bray Day.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Jo Sadgrove, USPG’s Research and Learning Advisor, who shared the challenges of uncovering USPG’s archives.

The USPG Prayer Diary today invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for courage to face uncomfortable truths. May we be honest in our reckoning of the past and sensitive in our unfolding the future.

The Collect of Trinity VI:

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

‘Pour into our hearts …’ … signs of love and hope in a refugee centre in Budapest (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

No comments: