CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 September 2017

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Valentine’s Day does belong in the Church

HONG KONG (SE) : Rather than scorning secular celebrations, like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and warning people off because of their secular appeal, some local Churches are encouraging parishes and schools to join in the fun by giving them their own religious flavour.

The chairperson of the Australian Commission for Pastoral Life, Bishop Eugene Hurley, says in promoting what he calls the St. Valentine’s Day Initiative, “In a culture that is increasingly intolerant of Christian values and beliefs, feasts that have captured the imagination of the secular community, like St. Valentine’s Day, represent a unique opportunity for the Church.”

The bishop adds, “It is an opportunity to proclaim our beliefs in a way that is affirming and life-giving to deeply held values that are shared by many in the wider community.”

Bishop Hurley says that he believes that by highlighting the positive values of secular culture, the Church can contribute to reinforcing and protecting them for the benefit of the whole of society.

“Use the innate joyfulness of the feast of St. Valentine to promote and affirm marriage and life-long romantic love,” the bishop says in an introduction to a Valentine Day Kit produced by his commission, which contains a rationale for celebrating the feast in Church, a suggested liturgy, a blessing for couples—whether married, engaged or in process—a PowerPoint presentation, as well as liturgy and homily notes, plus a fact file.

It also includes a newsletter clip board, with messages like, “Give your spouse a St. Valentine’s date they will remember. Revisit one of your early romantic encounters… let the romance flow.”

It also stresses gratitude, with one that reads, “Thank a married couple for the gift of their sacrament.”

For the engaged, it suggests, “Make Valentine’s Day last all year. Plan 12 dates… make sure each date includes time to share what is happening in your lives… instead of a present bring your presence…”

And a message from the whole parish community, “Wishing our faithful married couples a joyful St. Valentine’s Day. Thank you for the example of your love.”

It also lists 11 other organisations that have resources on relationship that run Websites containing a variety of information that could be used in a parish celebration.

The challenge in celebrating the feast is building a marriage-friendly community. It lists its most basic ingredient as being, “Cultivating an affirming and empowering mentality towards married couples, as they are a tremendous resource in proclaiming the gospel.”

The celebration is also a challenge to priests not to regard married couples as simply another group in the parish needing pastoral care.

“They are a key resource for evangelisation,” the kit says, adding a list of ideas to empower and enliven marriage in the community.

The briefing notes also suggest looking out for other secular feasts involving marriage and relationship, and celebrating them as well in your parish.

Australia has a National Marriage Day and most cultures have a cultural practice something akin to that.

And, the briefing notes add, don’t be afraid to organise a celebration at the parish that goes beyond the liturgy, one that involves children, friends and other parishioners as well.

Parishes are also encouraged to make the celebration of marriage a yearlong event, involving a variety of activities that are fun, educational, life-giving and even therapeutic and reassuring to couples.

The lived example of married life is important in the ministry of any parish, as it is the light that helps us to see the loving intimacy among God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It also points out that St. Valentine did not get to be the patron of happy marriages, engaged couples, love and lovers for his good looks.

The story of his life and death is one of heroism, for as a priest he defied the emperor of Rome in order to make the wishes of young couples to get married come true.

The emperor had noticed that married men tend to be less reckless in war than their single counterparts—so he banned marriage!

 

St. Valentine died for his dedication to cherishing love between a man and a woman on 14 February 269. On the eve of his death, he is believed to have penned a letter to a young girl, signing it simply, “From your Valentine.”