Sacred Mysteries: A Valentine flambé for Ash Wednesday dinner

Feb 11, 2018 by

by Christopher Howse, Telegraph:

St Valentine’s Day on February 14 happens to be Ash Wednesday this year, the beginning of Lent and a day of fasting. This could be awkward.

It is not that St Valentine’s Day is a great feast in the Church’s year. We know nothing about him apart from his martyrdom in the second half of the third century. Since 1969, St Valentine has not appeared on the universal calendar of the Catholic Church, though he may be commemorated locally on February 14, the day the Church of England commemorates him.

There are, it is true, relics of the saint in the church of Blessed John Duns Scotus in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. I don’t know which is more surprising: St Valentine’s relics in this church or its dedication to Duns Scotus. Scotus came from Duns in Berwickshire. Unfairly, his name became the English word dunce.

Thomas Hobbes called him and Peter Lombard “two of the most egregious Blockheads in the world, so obscure and senseless are their Writings”, which shows how much he knew of it. Anyway, Doctor Subtilis or blockhead, Scotus was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.

Like Hallowe’en, St Valentine’s Day is a secular ritual, retaining the superstition and doing away with the underlying point. A couple of generations ago the main ritual of the day was to send anonymous cards saying: “Be my Valentine.” The saint didn’t really come into it.

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