This year Saint Valentine's Day was very special. Many dioceses around the world organized celebrations with fiancés, recalling last year's meeting of the engaged couples with Pope Francis. We have received countless testimonies from Dublin to Australia, via France, Italy and Spain, describing the many ways in which February 14th was celebrated.
In Dieppe (France), for example, 34 couples renewed their wedding vows in Saint Jacques' Church (Archdiocese of Rouen). At the dinner that followed, the couples celebrated with the priest and many young people of the parish, marking a beautiful day of joy, prayer and fraternity, in fraternal dialogue involving practicing couples and couples who have stopped frequenting the Church.
In Dublin, the day was celebrated in the company of Saint Valentine himself, at the Sanctuary that houses some of his relics, near Whitefriar Street Church. Here, on behalf of the Irish Bishops' Conference, the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Msgr. Denis Nulty, blessed an engaged couple, whose wedding is planned for 2016.
Australia's Episcopal Conference gave all the parishes, for the sixth consecutive year, a kit of resources, including texts that help engaged couples to reconnect an increasingly secularized celebration with its Christian origins. This year's special theme, "Couple Fun," emphasized giving priority to leisure time together, creating fun and joyful occasions that can strengthen the bond of love for a whole lifetime.
The initiative in Mantua, "On the Way to the Wedding with the Bishop," was beautiful. There, Bishop Roberto Busti met with engaged couples (including those living together), who will soon marry in St. Valentine's Church, in Marengo.
"My beloved is mine and I am his" (Song 2:16) was the title of the first diocesan celebration of fiancés organized in Tivoli, in the parish of St. Joseph the Worker of Villanova di Guidonia. There the Bishop, Msgr. Mauro Parmeggiani met and blessed many engaged couples. Two moments marked the day: the Eucharistic celebration and then the dialogue of the future spouses with the Bishop. Moreover, the participants received—just as those last year in St. Peter's did at the behest of the Holy Father—from Msgr. Parmeggiani ring cushions for the day of their wedding.
Finally, in Caserta, the Bishop, Msgr. Giovanni D'Alise met with the fiancés of the diocese in the city’s Cathedral. Here His Excellency gave a gift to all those who were present: a poem written by him personally, which culminates in the exultation at the recognition of the beloved: "Now I can fly, I can dream, I can also make plans: I have met love. Now, thanks to you, I am discovering the infinity which is also in me."
In Vigevano, Bishop Maurizio Gervasoni celebrated Mass, spent time with the engaged couples and blessed them. This beautiful moment of brotherhood and joy continued with "The Festival of Tenderness", where over a hundred people dined and had fun together.
On February 13th, in Saints Ippolito and Lorenzo Church, in Faenza, couples gathered to celebrate the vigil of Saint Valentine’s Day, an event that is now a must for all the married couples of the diocese. Married couples, fiancés, men and women religious, priests and lay people all came together for the celebration presided by Msgr. Claudio Ponds. The evening was composed of three parts, during which the constitutive aspects of the wonder of being a couple were considered: love, mission and joy.
Finally, many came to participate in the celebration organized by the Diocese of Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Here, on the evening of February 14th, in the city’s central cathedral, the Bishop, Msgr. Juan Antonio Reig Pla, presided a prayer vigil that included the recitation of the Holy Rosary and the blessing of engaged and married couples. Among those present, there were also couples in difficulty, who are struggling for their marriage, as well as separated and divorced persons, who took the opportunity to pray that the Lord will heal their marriages and families. The faithful were personally blessed by the Bishop, who was wearing the cloak of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Valley, the patron saint of this Spanish city.