Many people will celebrate Valentine’s Day next week. Most will eat chocolate, send cards, go to dinner, or showcase other romantic gestures. Others may reference the “real” St. Valentine, for whom this day is named and speak of God’s love instead.
However, according to the liturgical calendar, February 14th is actually no longer St. Valentine’s feast day. Instead it is the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the first to proclaim the Gospel to those who spoke the Slavic languages.
Why the change?
It all goes back to Vatican II and a desire to make the universal calendar more, well, universal.
From the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, we read:
Lest the feasts of the saints should take precedence over the feasts which commemorate the very mysteries of salvation, many of them should be left to be celebrated by a particular Church or nation or family of religious; only those should be extended to the universal Church which commemorate saints who are truly of universal importance.
As a result, some saints that had been celebrated previously were removed or added or sometimes moved around in the creation of the revised calendar.
And Valentine was one of those who got the axe, so to speak.
Which is actually representative of the historical Valentines, of which there were at least 22 who are recognized as saints, as many of them were martyred. So, in theory, the real St. Valentine got the physical axe long before his namesake received the liturgical one.
At the time of the Second Vatican Council, there were five Valentines who shared the feast day of the 14th of February. Yet, they were not the same as the Valentine legendary for wedding Christians in secret, around whom the romance of Valentine’s Day seems to have sprouted.
Therefore, the Church decided at that time to exclude Valentine from the modern calendar and replace him (or them) with the missionary brothers of Cyril and Methodius. The evangelistic nature of the lives of Sts. Cyril and Methodius exemplify the universality of the Church the Second Vatican Council wished to celebrate in the liturgical calendar.
These brothers, as mentioned above, were among the first to preach to Gospel to the Slavic people. They translated the Bible into the local Slavic language, and even invented the Slavic alphabet, which still exists today in the form now known as Cyrillic. They were recognized as saints first by the Eastern Orthodox churches and officially by the Roman Church in 1880 – long after the original liturgical calendar was created.
So, this February 14th, when someone gives you chocolate and wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day, you could politely say “and blessed Sts. Cyril and Methodius day to you, too.” Or, you could just accept the chocolates – since this year Lent starts after the 14th – and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for all our brother and sister Saints in heaven, whether on the official Church calendar or not.