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February in the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ 2018

Dear All,

Something quite odd is happening in February this year which I don’t recall ever having happened before in the time I’ve been ordained. Ash Wednesday is on 14th February, Valentine’s Day.

Well, there’s a weird juxtaposition!

St. Valentine was reputedly a Saint in Rome in the 3rd  Century, supposedly martyred on 14th February. Beyond that, nothing at all is known about him, and in 1969 the Roman Catholic Church actually downgraded the observance of his feast day. The association of Valentine with lovers is, it has been suggested, actually a tongue in cheek invention of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century, incorporating in his stories the myth that birds paired in mid-February.

At any rate, Valentine’s Day in our own time is now big business & woe betide the husband or boyfriend who forgets the card/chocolates/present. I do wonder if, rather like Halloween & suchlike, Valentine’s day has been commercially hijacked for the benefit of the Card manufacturers, but I suspect I’m just being grumpy!

But this year Romantic love is being overlaid by something much more austere and searching, the story of how Divine love saves humanity from itself. God’s self-sacrifice is demonstrated in the person of Jesus, in the account of his death and resurrection.  In stark contrast to the hearts and flowers of Valentine’s Day, we will be marking our foreheads with ash crosses as a sign of penitence and preparation for the Lenten journey to come. We celebrate human love on Valentine’s Day (and all right, that’s a good thing to do!), but this year we will be reminded of God’s love & the response to it we are called to make willingly and with joy.

Love Fr. John           (Ps. Don’t forget to enjoy Shrove Tuesday Pancakes!! )