True message of Valentine’s Day to be celebrated in parishes

To download the Valentine’s Day Kit 2012, click here!St Valentine Resource 2012

Heart shaped chocolates and teddy bears have become a symbol of February in the commercial world, and, for the lucky ones who have someone to share February 14th with, this is another chance to celebrate. Yet it is not an unreasonable question to ask why the Catholic Bishops’ Conference would put out a kit for St Valentine’s Day each year.

In 2010, the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Life through the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council developed a kit devoted to the celebration of St Valentine’s Day for use in parishes.

Trish Jarzynski is a member of St Thomas the Apostle Parish in Kambah, ACT, and was one of the first people to suggest a St Valentine’s Day Mass be held in the parish in 2007.

“I picked up the idea from the internet from a project in Catholic parishes in England and Wales in 2006 called “Everybody’s Welcome”, and I was grateful for the support of our Parish priest at the time in introducing the initiative.

“In an age where everything has become increasingly secularised, I think it is important to use ideas from the culture around us and reflect the spiritual side”, she said.

St Thomas’ parish have a Mass for St Valentine’s Day each year and have used the kit to prepare their liturgy.

“I was delighted to see the Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Life pick up the idea on a national basis in 2010, three years after our parish began the tradition of having the Mass.

“Their Resource Kit for Parishes is excellent, especially the handout giving suggestions on ways to keep the Romance alive in Marriage, ideas for the Homily for the celebration Mass, and facts about St Valentine (Yes, he is a real saint!)”, said Trish.

Long-time members and Co-Chairs of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council Mavis and Ron Pirola say that the purpose of the kit is to reaffirm the importance of the vocation to Christian marriage and to celebrate the joy and evangelical nature of the family union.

“The ‘re-Christianisation’ of what has become a secular feast is a major aspect of what we are trying to do. It’s wonderful that couples can celebrate their love on this Day, and we actually want to create some awareness of the fact that St Valentine was a priest and martyr of the early Church, and that this feast has quite specifically religious history”, they said.

“Weddings during the time had been suspended by the emperor who wanted more young men to be available for combat. In defiance of the emperor Claudius, St Valentine, who saw the anguish of couples wishing to marry, actually used to celebrate marriages in secret”, they said.

The St Valentine’s Day Kit, which is available on the Bishops’ Conference website, is aimed at celebrating Christian marriage today and the vocational gift it is to the Church.
In an overly-sexualised culture, the meaning of marriage and indeed of love often gets lost in the superficial. More and more, young people struggle to discern what true love is.

Bishop Terry Brady, Bishops’ delegate for the Marriage and Family Council said that the kit is important for giving couples a realistic and generous expectation of their relationships, and to invite God into them.

“Love is a feeling to be learned. It is tension and fulfilment, it is deep longing and hostility, it is gladness and it is pain, there is not one without the other”, said Bishop Brady.

“In a world of widespread desecration of sexuality and marriage, the relatable love of married couples is a powerful sign of hope for others”, reads the kit.

“In the Catholic tradition, the Sacraments are the most powerful signs of God’s presence with us. The Sacrament of Marriage has a vital role in revealing the passionate love that Christ has for his bride, the Church. The steadfast love between a husband and a wife witnesses to the reality that Christ loves, forgives, heals and transforms his beloved “St Valentine” people”, it reads.

Francine and Byron Pirola are the founders of the movement called “Celebrate Love” and have been married for 24 years. They have worked in the area of marriage enrichment for eighteen years and in natural fertility for fifteen years.

Like Ron and Mavis (incidentally, the parents of Byron), they are committed to affirming their vocation of marriage and encouraging others.

“As popular as romance is, for many singles the notion of life-long love is merely sentimental longing. They no longer have faith in marriage as a permanent love relationship and have come to view it as either unnecessary or unrealistic.

“In our work with engaged couples, it is not uncommon to hear that we are the only couple they personally know still married after 24 years. They simply have no-one in their network that is living proof that life-long marriage is both possible and desirable.”

Trish Jarzynski agrees, and part of her reason for promoting the St Valentine’s Day Mass is to encourage those couples who do see their marriage as Sacramental to hold onto that spiritual treasure.

“St Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular and commercial in secular culture, so it is very satisfying to reclaim this feast to celebrate the joy and romance of Christian love and marriage.

“It is an opportunity to support and honour married couples in their lifelong commitment to each other. It is also an opportunity for outreach to non-churchgoers, especially young people, who find it easier to relate to a special celebration such as this.

We have marked the feast every year since 2007 with a special Mass with renewal of marriage vows for married couples and a special blessing for engaged couples. Mass has been followed by either a supper at the church, a meal together in a restaurant or, this year, a special romantic fundraising dinner dance held in the school hall.

The St Valentine’s Day kit is available on the front page of the ACBC website by clicking the St Valentine’s Day button.