This year you will not find St Valentine in the Church calendar.
Wednesday 14 February is Ash Wednesday which takes precedence.
It’s 73 years since these two days clashed. As the Second World War drew to a close there was little mention of St Valentine’s Day.
Should we decline to give chocolates and refuse flowers?
The Archdiocese of Chicago, which describes Valentine’s Day as a “largely secular celebration”, suggests that those wanting to mark the day should do so on Shrove Tuesday which is “a traditionally festive time”.
Candlemas today is the final day we enjoy Christmas in real time as we note Mary and Joseph leaving Bethlehem with Baby Jesus to go up to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The name Candlemas is appropriate for we say that Jesus is the Light of the World. Today’s candle procession in church, representing Christ being carried into the Temple by his mother, began in Rome when Mass was so early in the morning that it was still dark.
Today was a turning point for the Holy Family as their encounter in the Temple with Simeon was a look to the future beyond Jesus’ largely hidden childhood to his trial and crucifixion.
The Holy Family was on its way home although maybe via Egypt for safety from Herod’s soldiers we heard about on Holy Innocents 28 December.
But Candlemas is also a cheerful occasion. It is the ancient day for farmers to move cattle off the land needed for growing hay and wheat for the Lammas harvest in August.
In Provence the church candles this morning are green to indicate the approach of spring.
In Marseille there are not only green candles but the special Navette biscuits in the shape of a boat on sale after the 6.15am Mass at St Victor’s Abbey.
Which church has the most candles today? Probably Ripon Cathedral which claims to have ‘thousands of candles’ ready for tonight’s Festal Eucharist and Candlelit Procession at 7.30pm.
In 1424 King James I of Scotland chose this special day to marry Englishwoman Joan in Southwark Cathedral.
**Lent is approaching. Carnival has already begun in Venice and Rio. Next Thursday is Fat Thursday in Poland and Tuesday week is Shrove Tuesday.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which ends tomorrow 25 January has seen many services and gatherings where Christians have prayed for and talked about unity.
Last Friday a film about Chevetogne was launched at Farm Street Church in London’s Mayfair.
May They all be One is a 52 minute documentary made by Alexia Veriter of KTOTV (French Catholic TV) telling the story of an Orthodox-Roman Catholic monastery in Belgium dedicated to the search for unity.
The first half of the film can now be seen now online.
Another example of co-operation was the weekend trip to Rouen by representatives of Southwark Cathedral. The two places share several formal and historic links. The English party had the opportunity of experiencing the French city’s Week of Prayer events.
La semaine de prière pour l’Unité Chrétienne is taken as seriously as in the UK or America where there are many more divisions.
This year Rouen’s main gathering was at the Protestant St Eloi Church. Here Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic church members shared a service.
English Anglican Michael Rawson, Southwark Sub Dean, carried the Bible in procession and speakers included the Archbishop of Rouen who sat in the front row as an equal with other church ministers.
On Sunday Canon Rawson and Rouen’s Protestant minister James Lowe both took part in the Solemn Mass at Rouen Cathedral.
The Week of Prayer ends tomorrow Thursday 25 January with a focus on St Paul Outside the Walls Church in Rome where Pope Frances, joined by representatives of many denominations, will preside at Vespers. St Paul’s is the Rome church dedicated as a centre for promoting Christian unity.