“We aim to evangelize and ‘re-Christianize’ the feast of St. Valentine,” Ron Pirola, co-chair of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, told CNA Feb. 15.
“We seek to bring back into focus the Christian origins of what has become a very commercialized, secularized, and materialist celebration, and to promote love very strongly.”
Since 2010, the group has produced a collection of resources which parishes can use to rediscover the sacramental dimension of St. Valentine’s Day, revivifying the feast’s celebration in a Christian spirit.
“In a culture increasingly intolerant of Christian values and beliefs, feasts that have captured the imagination of the secular community, like St Valentine’s Day, represent a unique opportunity for the Church,” wrote Bishop Daniel Eugene Hurley of Darwin in a note prefacing the materials.
“It is an opportunity for us to proclaim our beliefs in a way that is affirming and life-giving to deeply held values that are shared by many in the wider community. In doing so, we highlight the positive good such values have and reinforce the need to protect them for the benefit of the whole community.”
This year’s edition focuses on “Honouring marriage as life-long romantic love,” affirming marriage as an indelible bond through life and encouraging couples to pray together regularly.
Pirola emphasized the importance of “couple prayer” – when a husband and wife “speak to God about their needs, concerns and hopes while allowing the other person to hear,” and urged couples to find time to grow in prayer that would further enable them to understand the significance of the sacramental value of marriage.
The resource acknowledges couples as a tremendous resource in proclaiming the Gospel and in evangelization.
While St. Valentine’s Day has been displaced from the universal calendar of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, the saint remains on the Roman Martyrology on his traditional day, Feb. 14.
In addition, his feast continues to be observed as a commemoration each Feb. 14 in the extraordinary form.
St. Valentine was a bishop and martyr in the third century who helped Christian couples marry in secret during persecution from the Roman empire.
The Australian bishops’ marriage and family council produced a resource kit for strengthening marriages for St. Valentine’s Day this year, noting the Christian basis of the feast.