«Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…«
— FromCorinthians 13: 4-8
Here is a little bit about the history of Saint(s) Valentin:
The Roman Martyrology lists not one, but two Valentines, for February 14th. The first reads thus: «On February 14th, on the Via Flaminia in Rome, St Valentine, priest and martyr, after performing various healing miracles, and known for his culture, was killed by decapitation under Claudius Caesar.» The second one states: «On February 14th, in Terni, after being severely beaten, St Valentine was imprisoned and since they (his captors) were unable to overcome his resistance, they secretly dragged him out of prison at midnight and beheaded him on the orders of Placidus, the prefect of Rome».
The Roman Priest
The story of Valentine, the Roman priest, dates back to around AD270, during the persecutions of the Emperor Claudius Gothicus. Valentine was well known for his sanctity and the Emperor, who was intrigued by his fame, invited him to the palace. He offered Valentine his friendship and said he should adore the gods. But Valentino stated courageously and firmly that it was a waste of time worshipping the gods since Jesus Christ had brought the only true hope and the promise of a better world. The Emperor was impressed by Valentine’s faith and entrusted him to a Roman nobleman named Asterius, whom he ordered to convert Valentine using «mellifluous arguments». Asterius had a daughter who had been blind since the age of two. Valentino prayed over her and the girl regained her sight. Faced with this miracle, Asterius converted to Christianity along with his whole family. When he heard about their conversion, the Emperor Claudius condemned Valentine to be beheaded. The execution took place on the Via Flaminia in Rome. He was buried nearby and soon a church was built there in his honour.
The Bishop of Terni
The story regarding the Bishop of Terni takes place about seventy years later: Valentine was invited to Rome by the rhetorician and philosopher Crato, a teacher of Greek and Latin. He had a son named Chaeremon who suffered from a physical deformity that forced him to keep his head between his knees. No doctor had managed to heal him. Crato promised Valentine half of his possessions if he healed his son. But during a long night-time conversation, Valentine explained that it would not be his useless wealth that would heal the boy, but his faith in the one true God. Valentine then prayed over the boy and he regained his health. Moved by this miracle, Crato and his whole family were baptized by the bishop, together with three Greek students, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius. Abbondius, another student and son of the Prefect of Rome, Furious Placidus, also embraced Christianity. We know that Placidus held office between 346-347AD, so this is the historical date we associate with Valentine’s martyrdom. Placidus was devastated by the conversion of his son. He had Valentine arrested and decapitated on the Via Flaminia in Rome. The execution was performed at night to avoid the reaction of the now numerous Christian component of the city. After a brief burial on the site of his martyrdom, Proculus, Ephebus and Apollonius carried the body of the martyr to Terni and buried him just outside the city. But in Terni, the Consul Lucentius, arrested all three of them and before the populace could free them, had them beheaded as well. When they found out about the execution, the people buried the new martyrs together with Valentine in his tomb.
Patron saint of lovers
There are too many connections between the stories of the Valentine of Rome and the Valentine of Terni, including their places of martyrdom and burial, for us not to think they are one and the same person. Both give heroic testimonies of faith, both perform a miraculous healing that causes conversions, and both are martyred by beheading on the Via Flaminia in Rome. It was the Benedictine Order that maintained the church of St Valentine in Terni during the Middle Ages and that spread the cult of Valentine’s Day in their monasteries in France and England. The tradition of his being patron saint of lovers finds its origin in an ancient English text by Geoffrey Chaucer, according to whom birds start mating on Valentine’s Day. In mid-February, in fact, nature begins to awaken from its winter lethargy, so Saint Valentine has become the saint who announces the coming spring – which is why he is sometimes represented holding the sun in his hand. (This history of Valentine has been taken from the Vatican News, section Saint of the Day.)
Thank you for visiting — I hope you have a nice day, and my best Valentine wishes go out to mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers… and other women and men who make special sacrifices in the name of true love. Take care xxx
This week has been the annual Week of Christian Unity. We have been asked to pray for this cause. I must admit that I found it a bit difficult at first, because the term ‘Christian Unity’ was rather abstract for me, and to pray properly, in a focused way, I needed more understanding and structure.
I prayed for guidance, and sure enough, the next day an answer was presented to me! It was in the form of day-to-day prayers, readings, reflections, questions and go-and-dos. I found this link when looking for something else in the newsletter of my former church, Our Lady Queen of Peace RC, where I used to attend when living in London (I have since been living in Cordova for the last 33 years). So I would just like to share the link of this day-to-day prayer pamphlet with you which you can access here — it really is worth a browse!
Another site mentioned in the text is the Ecumenical PrayerCycle. This is also interesting and eye-opening — one which “takes us through every region of the world over the course of a year.
Praying for each place on earth and its people at least once a year, we affirm our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing diverse problems and sharing diverse gifts. Pray with us!”— World Council of Churches.
Every week, prayer is dedicated to different countries in the world. This week (starting on the 23rd of January) the prayers are for Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. See here for the following weeks and countries. (Last week it was the turn of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.)
(As I am not using this blog for commercial purposes, I am not infringing any copyrights, but I did want to provide an example of the important and interesting work that the World Council of Churches are doing.)
the 2,000-year presence and witness of the church in Asia Minor (now Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece) – the region in which St Paul and other apostles first planted the seeds of the Christian faith – and for how Greek culture influenced the early church
the Church Fathers who came from this area, along with many men and women who were Christian martyrs, and where seven ecumenical councils were convened
the pioneering work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in quest of Christian unity and for protection of the environment
those who have reached out to assist people who have fled to, and through, these lands.
We pray for:
the healing of memories and wounds inflicted by early 20th century genocides of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian communities, and for current tensions in these lands
enhanced respect for all minority groups and their claims,
those who work for justice and reconciliation
the people who struggle because of economic and political crises in these countries
more stable democratic governments that further the good of all.
A morning prayer
Our spirit seeks you in the early dawn, O God, for your commandments are light. Teach us, O Master, your righteousness and make us worthy to follow your commandments with all our strength. Take away from our hearts every darkness. Grant to us the Sun of righteousness and protect our lives from any bad influence with the seal of your most Holy Spirit. Direct our steps to the way of peace and grant to us that this present morning may be peaceful so that we may send up the morning hymns to you the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the only God, who is more than without beginning and creator of all. Amen.
(Excerpt from a morning prayer to the Holy Trinity, St. Basil the Great, 4th century, from Let us pray to the Lord, p. 58, WCC Publications)
I just wanted to share with you this photo of the beautiful Passion Flower I photographed when I was in England; it was just gracefully hanging over the neighbour’s fence, and the decorative, orange fruits languidly dripped from the verdant, intertwining branches.
The symbolic meaning of this flower is interesting and goes something like this:
The Passion flower (Passiflora) was named by Roman Catholic missionary priests who encountered the flower while on their journey in South America in the late 1500’s. They named it after the Passion of Jesus Christ, believing that several parts of the plant symbolized features of His suffering and death.
The symbolic parts of the plant are:
the filaments that represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore before His crucifixion,
the three stigmas on the passion flower which represent the three nails that held Jesus to the cross
the ten “petals”, His ten faithful apostles, and
the five anthers symbolise the five wounds that Jesus suffered when he was crucified.
The passion flower started to become widely known, and many used the flower to teach about the crucifixion.
The flower can also be used for medicinal purposes to treat such cases as: anxiety, insomnia, stress, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for flavouring in foods.
To end this blog, here is a poem about the Passion Flower, written by Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo, a highly-acclaimed poet of Nigeria. He was also “a teacher, and librarian, who died fighting for the independence of Biafra. He is today widely acknowledged as an outstanding postcolonial English-language African poet and one of the major modernist writers of the 20th century… Despite his father’s devout Christianity (he was a teacher in Catholic missionary schools), Okigbo had an affinity, and came to believe later in his life, that in him was reincarnated the soul of his maternal grandfather, a priest of Idoto, (the water goddess of the Idoto River in his hometown), an Igbo deity (Igbo, the people of south-east Nigeria). — Wikipedia
Passion Flower — Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo (British Nigeria, 16 August 1932 – 1967)
And the flower weeps
For him who was silenced;
dumb bells1 in the dim light celebrate
with wine song;
Messiah2 will come again,
After the argument in heaven3;
Messiah will come again,
Fingers of penitence
to a palm grove5
fingers of chalk7.
Explanation of the poem:
1 — «dumb bell» referred to the practice in the Roman Catholic Church where bells are not rung between Maundy Thursday and the first Mass on Easter Sunday
2 — Messiah pointed at the expected King and Saviour (Jesus Christ).
3 —»after the argument in heaven» looks at the shaking of the powers of heaven referred to in The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 21, verse 26, prior to the coming of the Son of Man, described in verse 27.
4 — “Lumen mundi”, the Light of the World (Jesus Christ)
5 — “Palm grove”, the place of sacrifice
6 — «vegetable offering», the fruits of the earth that are being sacrificed, that is, palm oil, kola nuts, alligator pepper and eggs of white hens
7 — «five fingers of chalk», the sacrificial chalk which is sold in «fingers».