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Fr. Musaala out to reclaim Valentine’s Day

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By Matthias Mazinga
Valentine’s Day is generally acknowledged as one of the most exciting social events of the secular world. Interestingly though, the romantic love-ornamented celebration is rooted in the Christian tradition. It was just taken over by the secular world and as of now, Christendom is making attempts to reclaim it. Rev. Fr. Anthony Musaala is one of the architects of Christian Valentine’s Day reclamation strategy. He explains the feast’s Christian roots.
Musaala’s Explanation
Valentine’s Day, February 14th, is an extremely popular day celebrated all over the world including here in Uganda, yet many are unaware that Valentine was a Catholic priest and Christian saint.
The day is named after St. Valentine of Rome who was martyred in 27

Fr. Musaala has vowed to reclaim Valentines Day and take it back to the Church (photo: Mazinga)

0 (AD) for secretly performing marriage ceremonies against the orders of Emperor Claudius II.

In its present form, the romantic characteristics of Valentine’s Day seem to have their origins in Chaucer’s poem of 1375, ‘Parliament of Foules,’ in which he says:
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / When every foul cometh there to choose his mate.” (‘Foule’ refers to bird, or creature. The poem is in old English.)
Before this poem was published, Valentine’s Day did not have romantic associations.
Chaucer’s poem which became very popular is what gave impetus to the type of Valentine’s Day we have today.
Today’s Valentine is associated with romantic love and its symbolic expressions (red roses, cards with love verses, red dresses, shirts, images of cupid shooting an arrow into a heart) while the phrase ‘my Valentine’ means ‘my lover’.
On Valentine’s Day everyone wants to be someone’s ‘Valentine’ or lover.
Original Valentine’s Day
St Valentine of Rome was martyred not for romantic love, but for secretly conducting Christian marriages.
The emperor had forbidden his soldiers to marry because he wanted them to fight wars against his enemies, in which they were freely able to give their lives for Rome’s victory.
So, the original celebration of the saint’s day had nothing to do with romantic love. It was the memorial of the death of someone who had promoted and defended Christian marriage – the permanent stable union of man and woman with a total commitment of life – and the blessing of the church.
Reclaiming the day
The secularization and commercialization of Valentine’s Day is one reason why the Catholic Church stopped celebrating St Valentine’s memorial from 1969 and replaced it with the feast day of Saint Cyril and Methodius.
I believe however, that Valentine’s Day can be reclaimed by the Church in some way even if not liturgically. We can celebrate it in a manner that conveys the beautiful and unique idea of Christian love, exemplified by Christ and the saints.
“No greater love has anyone than to lay down their life for their friends” John 15:13.
This kind of love is quite different from the romantic love of Valentine’s Day but the romantic idea can be incorporated into it and purified. It would be a kind of inculturation of a contemporary trend.
The secularization of Christian holy days is nothing new. Christmas day is a prime example. In many places Christmas is merely a commercialized and sentimentalized feast, without any reference to the Incarnation.  Halloween is similar.
This should not dissuade us from celebrating what is ours, in its origins including St Valentine’s Day.
We can revert to what pre-existed of St Valentine’s Day before the Chaucer poem. Then in the spirit of Vatican II’s renouncement, (returning to original sources), we can craft a new feast which takes into account some positive aspects of the present-day celebrations, including the aspiration for ‘true love’.
So, when we see so many real or pretended lovers getting together on Valentine’s Day to pledge their real or pretended love to each other, we can at least pray for them for wisdom, while in our own lives promoting a higher kind of love – a better love – which does not end in tears.
We can pray for married couples and those engaged to be married and those who are ‘single and searching’. We can also pray for celibates to live chastely.
Valentine dinners and Valentine parties will no doubt be celebrated everywhere and ‘love’ will no doubt be expressed in many ways to many people and this is not all bad nor is all to be decried.   
We can help others rediscover and celebrate Christian love by seeking out the marginalized, the lonely and the unloved and sharing something with them in a ‘love feast’ or ‘agape’ as found in Jude 1:12, and inferred in 1Cor 11:24.
We can listen to and support the broken-hearted and rejected and re-introduce them to God’s love in Christ through welcoming them into the Christian community.

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