Last year on February 14, I visited the church where the head of St. Valentine can be seen, and I posted the following blog with some photos – hope you can enjoy those photos again. https://joansrome.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/irish-bishop-blesses-engaged-couple-at-shrine-of-st-valentine/

As I write Pope Francis is about to start the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the basilica of Sant’Anselmo to the basilica of Santa Sabina where he will celebrate Mass, receive ashes and deliver a homily. There is an embargo for that homily – it may be published the moment he gives it and not before.

Given that I’ll be gone when the Holy Father gives his homily, I will post that story when I return home from the evening Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s church in downtown Rome, followed by a meeting of the Parish Council’s Finance Committee..


Today’s general audience took place in a rainy and very cold St. Peter’s Square but precisely because of that bad weather, Pope Francis first went to the Paul VI Hall where a group of sick people was waiting for his greeting and a blessing.

The Holy Father was in the square outside by about 9:45 and he did comment on the weather, saying “it is ugly.”

It seems that the Pope, however, did brighten up the day for two youngsters, giving them a lift in the papal vehicle –

Christopher Wells of Vatican Radio did this report for Vatican News:

“If the soul is always joyful, it is a good day.” The weather was “a little ugly,” as Pope Francis said Wednesday, but the Holy Father found a way to brighten everyone’s spirit at the weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square.

He began his audience with a small group of sick people gathered in the Paul VI Hall, and then ventured out into the wind and rain, where he delivered his catechesis to a small crowd of pilgrims who braved the inclement Roman winter weather.

The teaching at Wednesday’s general audience was focused once again on the Mass, as Pope Francis reflected on the end of the Liturgy of the Word.

Hearing the Word of God, with the explanation in the homily that follows, is a right, “the spiritual right of the people of God to receive the treasure of the Word of God in abundance.” Everyone who goes to Mass, said the Pope, “has the right to receive abundantly the Word of God, read well, proclaimed well, and then explained well in the homily. It’s a right!”

After the homily, the Pope spoke about the moment of silence, which gives people time to reflect on what they have heard.

Pope Francis then spoke about the communal recitation of the Creed at the Mass, saying it “manifests the common response to what was heard by the community in the Word of God. He emphasized the “vital connection” between hearing and faith, recalling the words of Saint Paul, that is, “faith comes from hearing.” Faith then leads to the Sacrament, so that the Creed becomes a link between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After the Creed, the Mass continues with the Prayer of the Faithful, or the Universal Prayer – so called, the Pope said, because it embraces all of the needs of the Church and of the world. The Prayer of the Faithful, he said, echoing the General Instruction of the Missal, is an exercise of their baptismal priesthood by the People of God.

Reflecting on the words of Jesus – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” – Pope Francis said we don’t believe this, “because we have little faith.” He encouraged us to have great faith when we pray together during the Mass.

“The intention for which the faithful are invited to pray should give voice to the concrete needs of the ecclesial community and of the world, avoiding having recourse to conventional and short-sighted formulas,” he said. “The Universal Prayer, which concludes the Liturgy of the Word, exhorts us to make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for all His children.”


A story to help you appreciate the freedoms we have:

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned TV channels from promoting Valentine’s Day-related activities, which falls tomorrow.

For most practising Muslims, the event known all over the world as the festival of romantic love is contrary to Islamic doctrine. Speaking to AsiaNews, Church leaders expressed conflicting opinions on the matter.

According to Rev Irfan Jamil, Anglican bishop of Lahore, the anniversary has no connection to Christianity. “The ban doesn’t matter. Love should not be celebrated one day a year only.”

Fr Nasir Williams, director of the Social Communications Commission of the diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, has other ideas. “The ban is the ultimate [form of] of ignorance. Freedom of thought is already limited in our country.”
“What is next?” he wonders, “Confiscating mobile phones or banning TV dramas based on love stories? Nobody is forcing people to buy these gifts. The attempts to control people or blackout one part of media will make no difference,” he said.

Valentine’s Day is named after a Christian martyr of the 3rd century. The celebration has proven divisive among Muslims. Every year, groups of Islamic radicals organise protests and hand out leaflets urging people not to celebrate the day.

This is the second year of a ban imposed on social media as well as online and print media. Last year, the Islamabad High Court ruled that “No event shall be held at official level and at any public place.”

PEMRA General Manager Operations Muhammad Tahir PEMRA said that all broadcast media and distribution services must “desist from promoting Valentine’s Day through their respective channels and networks.”

Yet, despite the ban, it is still very common to find stands in malls and shops selling heart-shaped stuffed toys and teddy bears, balloons and other red-coloured gadgets

This year, the Pauline Books and Media communications centre in Lahore is not selling Valentine’s Day greeting cards. “The tradition of exchanging cards is dead,” said Sister Irshad Maqsood. “Usually we order stock, but now people have turned to digital media.”



I posted a musical animated Valentine Day card on my FB page but don’t know how to place it in this column so you’ll just have to go to Facebook (com/joan.lewis.10420) and click on the image – here’s the wish I made with that card: It’s a piece of cake to wish my family, friends and many fans around the world a very sweet Valentine’s Day! Many heartfelt wishes for a splendid day! Thank you for being part of my life!

As I read Bishop Nulty’s letter (below) I realized I did not know that St. Valentine’s skull was preserved in Santa Maria in Cosmedin so I decided on a whim to visit that church this afternoon and take some photos. Although I did not know it when I boarded a bus to get to Santa Maria, there was an improvised demonstration near Pza. Navona today and that tied up traffic for quite a while a while. I waited things out and eventually got to the church, although I probably could have gone to Florence and back by train in the same time frame!

My visit to this ancient jewel of a church was the absolute highlight of my day! And it was a truly splendid day in Rome, weather-wise! Made for walking and sightseeing and eating gelato and dining al fresco and enjoying Roman parks and monuments and fountains. By now, you may have even seen the Facebook Live of this chapel and church that I did on a whim – beautiful moments! Tonight I’ll post only the photos of the St. Valentine chapel and relics ….more to come tomorrow.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin – St. Valentine Chapel



 I have great childhood memories of Valentine’s Day, and I have the feeling that countless numbers of you had the same school experiences that we had as youngsters, namely, you brought a card for each member of your class on which you wrote you very best friend’s name – and you had dozens of BFFs –and these were all exchanged in a brief moment of free time during the school day. The local five and dime sold boxes of 50 or more cards for perhaps a dollar and your Mother bought a good number of boxes so that each member of the family had the several dozen cards needed for their respective class.

In many cases, there were no envelopes: the cards were simple – a design on one side, words of endearment on the other and it was on that side that you wrote your classmate’s name and signed the card.

If there were cards left over, we gave them to family members, though most of the time Mom and Dad merited a separate, individual card, usually handmade. If we received an allowance, chances are such cards were store bought.

At dinner on February 14, in addition to red flowers or some other decoration on the table, Mom always placed a decorated shoe box with a big slit on the middle into which we would put all the cards for our family, cards we made after having spent hours in our bedrooms, with doors closed so our stunning handicraft would be a surprise! Mom opened the box and then called out individual names as she read the cards. We all pretended to be surprised at receiving so many cards! Another natural part of a Valentine Day dinner was a heart-shaped dessert and dozens of those small hard candies with romantic sayings stamped on them.

In our family, as we grew up, each of us had what we called our “box of things,” boxes filled with Valentine cards, school mementoes, birthday and Christmas cards, letters from boy- or girl friends (I even had a pen pal in Italy and have not been able to locate her!), dance cards, etc.” As my siblings and I went through my Dad’s “boxes of things” after he died, we found dozens of his gorgeous Valentine cards to my Mom. And we found more, years later, when Mom died – her letters to him. I still have a number of those!

As I wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day, my hope is that you have similar wonderful memories that you can put into your “box of things.”


A lovely St. Valentine’s Day story from Ireland where Bishop Denis Nulty presided at the blessing of an engaged couple at the Shrine of Saint Valentine in the historic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the heart of Dublin city.

Bishop Nulty began his remarks by noting that in late January, he and his brother bishops from Ireland were in Rome on their ad limina visit.

He noted that, “Two particular memories from those most memorable days in Rome, have a direct connection to what we are about here at the Shrine containing the holy relics of Saint Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  The first one relates to a question asked by Cardinal Kevin Farrell at a meeting we attended with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.  The second involved a per chance visit to the eighth century Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.”

Bishop Nulty explained that, “Cardinal Kevin Farrell heads the new dicastery which holds within its brief the World Meeting of Families, and this pastoral celebration will be hosted in Dublin from 22 – 26 August 2018.  The Cardinal, a native of Dublin, was keen to hear what kind of preparation courses or programmes couples undertake as they approach the sacrament of marriage here in Ireland.  His question allowed me, as President of ACCORD, Catholic Marriage Care Service, to speak of the great work done throughout the country by the ACCORD family, work that includes the marriage counselling and marriage preparation work; but work that encompasses an ever increasing demand for our Schools Programme.”

He then recounted his Rome experience: “And now to that per chance visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, my visit was on the final afternoon of our Ad Limina visit.  On the left side of the Basilica I found an altar with a glass reliquary containing the skull of Saint Valentine.  While the Carmelite Father John Spratt was richly rewarded for his preaching in the famous ‘Gesu’ in Rome by Pope Gregory XVI by receiving the gift of the relic containing the sacred body of Saint Valentine and a small vessel tinged with his blood; his skull obviously remained in Rome!  His head may be in Rome, but his heart is here in Dublin!  As I stood and prayed at the Shrine, just like here in Whitefriar Street Church, I noticed many young couples calling in, holding hands, lighting a candle or offering a prayer.

The bishop said that, “In The Joy of Love, Pope Francis urges the universal Church to make more of Saint Valentine’s Day: “In some countries, commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than we in the Church” (par 208).  In this respect I am delighted to refer to the initiative offered for Saint Valentine’s Day this year by the team behind the preparations for next year’s World Meeting of Families, and these are the six gift tokens which can be given to your loved one this very day.  The tokens suggest a technology free evening; setting aside time for prayer; going for a hand-in-hand walk together; a special dinner cooked by one of the couple; loads of tender hugs and a journey down memory lane to remember how the couple met and how their love has grown.  The tokens are free and are available from every ACCORD centre, as well as in cathedrals, Veritas stores and at Knock Shrine.  A novel and romantic idea!”

Bishop Nulty pointed out how, in today’s world, “sadly, technology can cause huge damage to relationships.  Years ago the text, the tweet, the Snapchat app, Instagram, Whatsapp were not even considerations in counselling, but today they contribute hugely to the fractured narrative that unfolds in many counselling sessions.  What was said in that tweet; the picture that was shared on social media; the reactive immediate response on snapchat can do enormous damage to a relationship, to trust and to the individual themselves.

“On behalf of ACCORD, I wish every blessing on Carol and Tim whose engagement rings I blessed a short time ago at the Shrine of Saint Valentine.  I include a blessing and best wishes on all couples preparing for marriage presently and a special prayer and thought for those availing of our counselling services.  This annual blessing ceremony allows us in ACCORD to reflect on the valuable contribution marriage and stable families offer the wider society.”

Together with Saint Valentine we pray:

O glorious advocate and protector Saint Valentine,

Look with pity upon our wants,

Hear our requests,

Attend to our prayers.

Relieve by your intercession the miseries under which we labour,

And obtain for us the divine blessing,

That we may be found worthy to join you

In praising the Almighty for all eternity,

Through the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.