Saturday, February 13, 2010
Valentines Day and the Protestant Predicament
Valentines Day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. To read a rather decent and succinct history of Saint Valentine on Wikipedia go here. For a more lengthy article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, go here.
To the point though of the title of this post. At issue is the fact that Valentine's Day is in fact Saint Valentine's Day, a feast day added to the Roman Calendar, as mentioned above, by a Pope.
As we know, most non-Catholic Christians (actually all non-Catholic Christians that I know of) do not recognize either the authority of Rome (the Pope) nor the Catholic practice of honoring saints, which some consider a form of idolatry.
Yet, just about everbody I know (except Jehovah's Witnesses) "celebrate" Valentines Day - Saint Valentines Day.
Of course, they don't think of Valentines as the feast day of a Catholic saint, and if pressed, would probably respond that they emphasize the expression of love, etc., and the tradition of the day, and are definitely not honoring this early Christian martyr. (One might wonder what could be wrong with honoring an early Christian who suffered and died for Christ - but so be it.)
Sadly, many Catholics have no clue either...and think nothing of the Saint. The Church itself took Valentine off the calendar in 1969, not because he was demoted from sainthood (can't do that), but because nothing much was known about him, and in the competition for space on the ever-crowding calendar of saints and feastdays, he was let go...or more precisely, left up to local ordinaries (bishops) who are to decide to honor him or not.
One nice thing about being a "Traditional Catholic" (i.e. "Latin-Masser") is that Valentine is still on the calendar and we honor his love for Christ written into history in martyr's blood.
In any event, Valentines is a feast day honoring a Catholic saint, instituted by a Catholic Pope, and kept alive for the better part of 2 millenia by the Catholic Church. Whether our non-Catholic friends, or Catholics for that matter, pay the real Valentine any attention, does not alter the truth about the day and about the man, and about the Church that enshrined him.
But having made a note of this, we should also note that the Catholic Church is responsible for also choosing the dates for both Christmas and Easter (and Easter changes every year). I don't mean to pick a bone here, but the celebration of Christmas and Easter on the dates chosen by the Catholic Church in general, and a Pope in particular, is an implicit admission of the authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope, at least in this matter.
However, if one is to reject this authority outright, as some non-Catholic demoninations do, then intellectual honesty would demand that such objectors make their own dates for Christmas and Easter. But since that probably won't happen, I'm sure Pope Benedict has no issue with ya'll using his calendar.
Happy Valentines Day