"St. Francis Meets St. Valentine"
February 8, 2023, 8:00 AM


Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!

Psalm 119:1-2


St. Francis of Assisi never met St. Valentine of Rome. A thousand years separated the two saints. St. Valentine died about 250 years after Jesus and St. Francis died 1,000 years later. However, both shared a common trait, namely, seeking God with all of their heart.


The word “heart” in the Hebrew Scriptures refers to the entirety of one’s being (heart, mind, soul, and strength) joined with all of creation. That is a little different than thinking about the organ that beats in the center of our chest. Both saints were models of living with a profound “heart” connection with God.


St. Valentine of Rome is less well known within the church than St. Francis of Assisi. While there are 22 canonized saints by the name of Valentine, the only one to whom the Church refers is St. Valentine of Rome. He was a priest martyred for his faith in the 3rd century. There are few historical records of this priest. However, legend alludes to the possibility that he was marrying couples secretly so that husbands would not have to be conscripted into the military.


February 14th has historically been associated with St. Valentine for centuries, dating back to some of the earliest calendars within the Catholic Church. The Church initially had no problem celebrating him on the 14th, and kept his feast date until 1969. During the Second Vatican Council, the Church calendar was changed so that only universally recognized saints were placed on the calendar. St. Valentine was considered an extra, and Saints Cyril and Methodius replaced him on that date.


Personally, I like St. Valentine’s Day. I remember early in life exchanging valentine cards with classmates in elementary school. That meant picking out cards at home, and matching them to the physical characteristics of my classmates. Blond hair kids got cards with blond hair characters on them. Girls got cards with girls in dresses on them. Boys got cards with dogs and bikes on them. (Yes, boys gave boys valentine cards in those days.) And, then there were the people whom I did not like. I would pick up what I thought was an “ugly" card from the pile and put their name on it. I guess looking back, that wasn’t very kind.


Overtime, valentines became more directed toward certain individuals. Today, Valentine’s Day is overwhelmingly directed toward one person – one whom you supposedly love. The red heart has taken over our hearts (at least for one night).


Maybe St. Valentine’s Day should be placed back to its rightful place in the church calendar with a minor revision. As a mark of love through the self-sacrifice that St. Valentine demonstrated, let's focus on showing love to those not on our Valentine’s Day list. Moreover, how about making the Valentine’s celebration a day to extend your heart to those whom you do not know? Reach out, say “hi” to a person you do not know, share a cup of coffee, listen deeply to another person’s story, and become the “heart” to which the Hebrew Scriptures refer.


Strength for the journey to change our past behaviors into something more loving comes from the heart of a Christ who lets us know that all things are possible with God. (Matthew 19:26)


Love deeply this St. Valentine’s Day!


Blessings and Prayers,


Fr. John