I’ll bet you thought February 14 is St. Valentine’s Day, didn’t you? This morning I glanced at our church calendar of saint’s days and discovered that St. Valentine was nowhere to be found. Instead, February 14 is now the Feast Day of SS. Cyril and Methodius.
It turns out that there is a lot of uncertainty about Saint Valentine. He was a real person, or perhaps a composite of several Valentines from the early days of Christianity. The best information is that he was a priest who was martyred in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius for refusing to deny his faith. St. Valentine remains a saint in the Catholic Church’s official list of saints (as a Roman martyr). But because of the uncertainty of the historical details, in 1969 St. Valentine was removed from the general liturgical calendar that honors particularly well-known saints.
The replacement of St. Valentine with Saints Cyril and Methodius is a good bargain for Czechs. Instead of venerating a poorly known, early Christian martyr from Rome on this day, we honor two figures who had a major influence on Czech history and culture. C&M were brothers, Greek missionaries who were sent to convert the pagan Slavs to Christianity in the 9th Century. In the process, they created the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets, which provide us with the strange diacritical marks that explain the pronunciation of our names (and confuse outsiders). These new alphabets allowed them to translate the Bible and other religious texts into the Slavic languages.
It is hard to overstate the influence of these two great men. SS. Cyril and Methodius are honored as the Apostles to the Slavs. They are called out as saints not only by the Roman Catholic Church, but also by the Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches, and by many Slav nations – Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Russians, Bulgarians. Many churches are named after them, including the Catholic church in Clarkson.
The original frame structure of the SS. Cyril and Methodius Church in Clarkson was built in 1902, and lasted until 1977 when it was demolished and replaced by the present brick structure.
These black & white photos of the demolition of the old C&M church in March 1977 were taken by Pat Wacha, probably with the heavy, but excellent press camera that she acquired when she worked as a reporter in Omaha.
But please don’t let this discourage you from celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day and treating your loved ones well. The world needs to eat more chocolate, no?