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A short history and meaning of Valentine's Day

Header - The Greatest and Truest Valentine

 

I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled!  Luke 12:49

 

Sacred Heart of JesusValentine’s Day is dedicated to Love. Details of the origins of Valentine’s Day are lost in the mist of centuries, but two recurring versions speak of St. Valentine as an early priest who was martyred for upholding the sacredness of marriage. Due to an imperial edict in pagan Rome forbidding soldiers in active duty to marry, he performed wedding ceremonies in secret.

Consequently, apprehended and sentenced to death, while in prison, he miraculously cured the daughter of his jailer of a serious complaint. Both father and daughter converted. Before execution, he is supposed to have written the healed girl a note of farewell signed, “Your Valentine”.  This note is the ascribed origin of our own Valentine Celebration.

But in the flurry of hearts, candy boxes and red roses, one great Valentine, He who, ultimately is the origin of every true, selfless love, remains in the background.

Yet, no Heart ever beat with more love than His. No one ever proved love as He did.

Just as we have the need to make our sentiments of friendship and love visible in the shape of hearts, from paper hearts, to candy hearts, to jeweled hearts, so with Him.  As if not able to hide His love for humankind any longer, He decided to make it visible.

The devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus has origins even more ancient than those of the priest and martyr Valentine. The first to hint at this devotion was St. John Evangelist when he spoke of the pierced side of the dying Lord, pointing to His wounded heart. St Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the Middle-Ages, the idea of the Love of Jesus symbolized by His Heart was personally practiced by many a sage and saint. St. Gertrude is considered one of the early heralds of this devotion, along with her sister St. Mechtilde. St. John Evangelist once appeared to St. Gertrude, and revealed that, at the Last Supper, on leaning his head on the heart of the Lord, he was given an intimation of this devotion, a devotion to remain hidden, and only revealed when hearts would grow cold. 

In June of 1675, Our Lord appeared to a young nun of the Order of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque. He was radiant with love, His burning heart exposed. He said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved mankind…instead of gratitude, I receive from the greater part, only ingratitude…” 

He asked for a devotion of reparation to His heart wounded by so much ingratitude and indifference, for the receipt of Holy Communion on the first Friday of the month (having made a good Confession if necessary), and the observance of the Holy Hour. He promised amazing blessings to those who display an image of Him with His Sacred Heart exposed in their homes. He also asked for a feast day dedicated to the devotion of His Most Sacred Heart to be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, which devotion the Church subsequently established.  

Thus, it was through the humble religious, St. Mary Margaret Mary Alacoque that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Our Savior was made public, and the world given the greatest and truest of all Valentines.

  

Let us remember Him in our celebration!

 

 


By Andrea F. Phillips

 

Also Read:  Family Tip 7 - Take back our Catholic Holidays 

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 19, 2019

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently...

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November 19

 

It is better to say one Pater Noster (Our Father) fervently and devoutly
than a thousand with no devotion and full of distraction.

St. Edmund the Martyr


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Nerses I of Armenia

King Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's Holy and Divine Bod...

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St. Nerses I of Armenia

Born of royal descent, Nerses was the son of At'anagenes and his mother was the sister of King Tigranes VII and a daughter of King Khosrov III. His paternal grandfather was St. Husik I whose paternal grandfather was St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian king to Christianity and became the first Patriarch of Armenia.

Nerses spent his youth in Caesarea and married a Mamikonian princess named Sanducht, who bore him a son, St. Isaac the Great. After his wife's death, he was appointed chamberlain to King Arshak of Armenia, but entered the ecclesiastical state a few years later. In 363, despite his protest of unworthiness, Nerses was consecrated Bishop of Armenia.

He was greatly influenced by St. Basil and, in effort to bring better discipline and efficiency to his diocese convened the first national synod in 365. He encouraged the growth of monasticism and established hospitals. His good deeds and promotion of religion angered the King, who was later condemned by Nerses for murdering his wife Olympia. It is said that Arshak mixed poison with the Lord's holy and divine Body, the Bread of Communion, and administered it to her, killing the queen in church.

Arshak died in battle against the Persians shortly thereafter. Nerses discovered that Pap, the king’s successor, was more ungodly than his predecessor. On account of his sinfulness, the holy man forbade Pap from entering the church until he repented of his ways. Angered, Pap feigned repentance and invited Nerses to dine at the royal table where he poisoned and killed him in 337.

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Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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