Newsletter Articles

Valentine, Patrick, & the Saints

Often Protestants are misinformed about the Saints existing in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox traditions alone. The Anglican and Lutheran traditions embrace the Saints too.

But, Lutherans embrace the Saints differently…

Martin Luther redefined a ‘saint’ as a forgiven sinner, but continued to recognize that canonized Saints are examples of Christian witness who should be venerated (respected, not worshipped).

Martin Luther taught that the Saints, however, do not possess an abundance of merit and cannot intercede on our behalf. Therefore, Lutherans do not pray to the Saints.

I have been honored and humbled in the presence of relics, including the tomb of St. Patrick. I have not visited seeking ‘merit’ but rather to be connected to the person, their story, and their Christian witness despite the confines of time and space, such as a family photo album or scrapbook might.

In February, humankind celebrates (romantic) love on Valentine’s Day without pondering its name sake Saint Valentine.

In 3rd century Rome, Emperor Claudius II (the Cruel) ordered several unpopular, bloody military campaigns and able-bodied men were not volunteering. He decided the cause was their ‘strong’ attachments to wife and family, thus engagements and marriages were declared illegal.

Valentine was a priest in Rome. He deemed the decree unjust and continued to preside at marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret. Valentine was arrested and sentenced to be beaten to death and beheaded on February 14 (approx. 270).

In March, the world will celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day as a symbol of Irish Pride, especially in America.

Patrick was not Celtic (or Irish), but English.

According to Patrick, he was captured and forced into slavery by Celtic Pagans in Ireland. During his enslavement, he became a ‘true believer’ in the Christian God. He escaped by the veil of night and being miraculously cloaked to appear as a deer to others.

After his escape, Patrick was reunited with family but yearned to return to Ireland.

After becoming a priest, he would become a missionary to Ireland and its people.

Patrick identified as Irish, because he was adopted and transformed by the people.

Patrick reportedly died March 17, 461 at a church he founded in (Northern) Ireland. He did not suffer a violent death, but perhaps death was caused by illness.

The American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day is firmly rooted in our unfortunate historical chapter of anti-Irish sentiment and “Irish Need Not Apply” signs hung in windows. It became an annual day that Irish Pride was able to be accepted and celebrated, despite the other 364 days.

May we connect to and learn from the witness of Valentine, Patrick, and the other Saints who came before us despite the confines of time and space.

Originally wrote for March 2019 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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