Friday, February 12, 2010

The Valentines of Valentine's

Though the martyr St. Valentinus was removed from the general calendar in 1969 due, in part, to a paucity of historical information about him, I thought we might bring him up anyway in an attempt to divert some of the flood of treacle soon to unfold.

His name derives from the Latin term valens, or "worthy." We use the related words "value" or "valuable" in English, and our Spanish brothers and sisters frequently use the phrase "vale la pena," meaning, "it's worth it" (literally: it is worth the pain, or effort). His name isn't in the earliest martyrologies, but was added in 496 by Pope Gelasius I (though with the admission that his deeds were "known only to God").

It seems that there were actually at least three different saints of that name, and all of them were martyrs. One a Roman priest, another a bishop, and the third a man martyred in Africa. Apart from their name, the historical sources at least make clear that all of the men were very fond of chocolates. (The foregoing sentence was a shameless lie, but it would be pretty cool, no?)

Here's a bit of one of them anyway:

I'm feeling romantic already.

Finally, in honor of the more popular observances of this coming Sunday, a favorite by W.H. Auden:

The Love Feast

In an upper room at midnight
See us gathered on behalf
Of love according to the gospel
Of the radio-phonograph.

Lou is telling Anne what Molly
Said to Mark behind her back;
Jack likes Jill who worships George
Who has the hots for Jack.

Catechumens make their entrance;
Steep enthusiastic eyes
Flicker after tits and baskets;
Someone vomits; someone cries.

Willy cannot bear his father,
Lilian is afraid of kids;
The Love that rules the sun and stars
Permits what He forbids.

Adrian's pleasure-loving dachshund
In a sinner's lap lies curled;
Drunken absent-minded fingers
Pat a sinless world.

Who is Jenny lying to
In her call, Collect, to Rome?
The Love that made her out of nothing
Tells me to go home.

But that Miss Number in the corner
Playing hard to get....
I am sorry I'm not sorry...
Make me chaste, Lord, but not yet.
There's some interesting theology tucked away in there, should you care to tease it out (not to mention some simply very-clever writing). Apologies to friends and relatives who are offended by "tits." Though, on second thought, most of us have had sufficient experience with them (though we may not remember it) that I don't really feel bad. Happy St. Valentine's Day, all!

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