John Lilburne's journal about Moses telling the Israelites to "Choose life", Germaine Greer on abortion and Saint Valentine.



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The New Martyrology




1216 L Thu 14 Feb 2002

The first reading today promotes the family. Israel is about to cross the Jordan and Moses tells them:

If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you wil live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make you own. But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today: I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, ... [Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Jerusalem Bible].

Today the Office of Readings has a similar theme from the beginning of Exodus. The Egyptian king is worried about the Israelites breeding:

"Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land. ...

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 'When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women, and set them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, she shall live." [Exodus 1].

But somehow the western world seems to have chosen death rather than life. The feminist Germaine Greer talks about it in The Whole Woman (1999) when discussing what was won by the Roe vs Wade decision on abortion:

What women 'won' was the 'right' to undergo invasive procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies, unwanted not just by them but by their parents, their sexual partners, the governments who would not support mothers, the employers who would not employ mothers, the landlords who would not accept tenants with children, the schools who would not accept students with children. (page 108).

How do humans, a life form having evolved through sexual reproduction, get to this point?

Today is Saint Valentine's day. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints:

VALENTINE (3rd century), martyr. Two Valentines are listed in the Roman Martyrology on 14 February: one a Roman priest martyred on the Flaminian Way, supposedly under Claudius, the other a bishop of Terni who was martyred at Rome, but whose relics were translated to Terni. The Acts of both are unreliable and the Bollandists assert that these two Valentines were in fact one and the same. Neither of them seems to have any clear connection with lovers or courting couples. The reason for this famous patronage is that birds are supposed to pair on 14 February, a belief at least as old as Chaucer ... On the other hand, some authorities see the custom of choosing a partner on Saint Valentine's Day as the survival of elements of the Roman Lupercalia festival, which took place in the middle of February. ...

I wonder if the new Roman Martyrology (published last year) retained both, one or no Valentines. If retained then it seems priests could celebrate a Mass for Saint Valentine, even though he does not have a feast day. It seems this cannot happen during Lent, but it is unusually early this year. This is based on what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on the Liturgy, wrote in their Newsletter for October/November 2001:

What role does the Martyrology play in the choice of texts for the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours?

In this regard, readers may find paragraph 33 of the Congregations' "Notification on Proper Calendars and Proper Liturgical Texts" to be helpful. The BCL's unofficial translation of this September 20, 1997 document, reads:

"It is good to remember, in addition, the possibilities offered by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (nn. 316b, 316c) to the priest celebrating on the weekdays of Ordinary Time, or those of Advent before December 17th, or of the Christmas season from January 2nd onwards, or on those of the Easter season. In such periods, even when there is an optional Memorial, the priest can celebrate either the Mass of the weekday or that of any Saint inscribed that day in the Roman Martyrology. The same holds, analogously, for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 244).

It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, in such circumstances, to celebrate in honor of a Saint found in neither the General Calendar nor in a proper calendar. Obviously, such cases call for the exercise of pastoral good sense on the part of the celebrant."

1218 L Fri 22 Feb 2002

I wrote to Father Murray Watson who has a copy of the new martyrology about Saint Valentine. He replied:

Yes, there is still a St. Valentine on February 14 in the new edition of the martyrology. The relevant entry (#2 on February 14, after Sts. Cyril and Methodius) reads: "In Rome, on the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge: St. Valentine, martyr." That's all it records.

HOWEVER, there are a number of OTHER Valentines recalled in the Martyrology (at least in the Latin form of their names). Just for the sake of reference, they are:
* Blessed Valentinus (Vincentius) Jaunzaras Gomez (18 September, died in 1936)
* St. Valentinus Berrio Ochoa (24 November, died in 1861)
* Sts. Valentinus and Hilarius (November 3, century uncertain)
* St. Valentinus, bishop of Rhaetia (January 7, died around 450)
* St. Valentinus, hermit in Spain (October 25, died around 715)
* St. Valentinus, martyr of Rome (February 14, century uncertain)
* St. Valentinus, priest and hermit (July 4, around the 5th century)

I wonder if there will be eight Valentine's Days.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne 14 February 2002. Last updated 22 February.