For many years now, the Church has seized the occasion of St. Valentine's Day to recall that She encourages and accompanies the love between man and woman, whatever their situation in life may be. This attention has grown unceasingly: two years ago, in France, the Teams of Our Lady invited other movements involved in family ministry to gather around a table and share ideas. It was revealed that each of the organizations independently proposed St. Valentine evenings. This is how the project to join forces throughout France was born.
The main idea of the project called "St. Valentine's Day Differently" consists in the collaboration with the local church, especially parishes. For 2016, the parishes have benefited from the experience of many movements: Cler, Alpha Courses, the Teams of Our Lady, Cana, Fondacio, Amour & Vérité, Centers for marriage preparation, Aquila & Priscilla, and Vivre & Aimer. In particular, parishioners were invited to plan the evening together. The result is very satisfactory: in 2016, about sixty meetings will be held in France and Switzerland.
The organization of these evenings must, of course, follow some basic rules; these are written on the preparatory cards made available by the organizers of the pastoral movements. For example, the encounters will be "tête-à-tête:" the intimacy of couples, face to face at a table, must be respected regardless of the place, be it a restaurant or a parish hall. The details of the setting are also prepared with care.
The proposed activities during the evening may, however, vary depending on the sensitivity of the movements that organize them. Some will prefer ten-minute sermons between two dishes, while others accentuate the times of prayer. In some cases, questionnaires or reference texts will be distributed to couples.
In order to evangelize, even non-believing couples are invited to some of these encounters, centered on sharing life experiences, with the participation of marital counselors. For believers, however, a prayer service is scheduled after the meal. Some movements suggest inviting the lovers to participate in the Eucharist. Another tip was given as well: the parishes may choose to organize the encounters in accordance with the situations of life (divorce, unmarried couples, young people…).
However, "St. Valentine's Day Differently" is not just one evening in the year. This is also a way for the movements involved in family ministry to make themselves known. A St. Valentine's celebration can also be a gateway to initiatives proposed by parishes for the good of married couples.