click here for gadget for god  
about the ship sign up for our newsletter
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
features home columnists archive
steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
St Val's dos and don'ts
February 2004

Poor St Valentine. As if being martyred three times on the same day in different places were not enough (assuming ancient Catholic martyrologies are to be trusted), 1600 years later he finds the occasion commemorated with an annual flirting, snogging and merchandising festival. And all because medieval Europeans got it into their heads that birds mated on 14 February.

Among Muslim and Hindu activists, Valentine is extremely unpopular. Celebrating his day was outlawed two years ago in Saudi Arabia, following a ruling by The Higher Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas. Romantic dissidents wore red clothes in protest. Last V-Day in India, Hindus picketed offending shops, stopped people holding hands in public and burnt cards in the streets. Let's not discount the likelihood that Val would have been on their side.

The attitude of Thai Buddhists is markedly different. Admittedly, Bangkok authorities operate a curfew and patrol on the big day to prevent teens indulging in "obscene dancing and flirting", but huge celebrations are allowed for adults.

Last year, 36 couples got married underwater in the Andaman Sea (two guests drowned), and another six took the proverbial plunge hanging in slings from a 65m cliff in Taplan National Park. Two years previously two pairs of elephants were married in full traditonal Thai costume on St Valentine's Day.

Bearing in mind all the early saints who baptised lions and resurrected kippers, I'd like to think St Val would approve of elephants doing the decent thing.

So how do Christians mark this holy feast of love? The Scottish Episcopal Church published a sex book two years ago, offering a stimulating probe into areas rarely touched during sermons. "There was a growing feeling among our membership," said the Rt Rev Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, in the context of other comments that he also made.

Roman Catholics have the edge, though, because last year Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni was able to offer engaged couples marriage instruction and Mass from the tomb of St Valentine himself. "Jesus is the best role model for engaged couples," he told them. Your attitude to getting married should be like that of Christ - don't.

If you find true love this Feb 14 - as I'm sure you will - and decide to go for a church wedding, here are some important don'ts to make your walk up the aisle everything a good walk should be.

1. Don't be too old - or too young. Father Paolo Onori spoilt Anna and Pietro's big day in December when he refused to marry them because she was 39 and he 18.

2. Don't be late. Seventh Day Adventist Churches in Brazil have started imposing a 50 fine on all brides who keep the organist playing more than 30 minutes. Some churches have no sense of tradition.

3. Don't announce the sex of your partner beforehand. When Dennis turned up for his secret wedding in Nizhni Novgorod, in Russia, with his bride Michail, the priest protested that he had assumed he would a woman, as the Russian Orthodox Church does not offer gay marriages. But not wanting to call it off at this late stage, he went ahead with it anyway.

4. Don't invite drinkers. An evangelical couple in Scaiesti, in Romania, Aurel and Simona, insisted on having no alcohol or worldly music at their nuptials last summer, but his father couldn't resist offering guests a little something, and the unhappy couple walked out and went on honeymoon early. Well, you know what these desparate true-love-waits kids are like.

If on the other hand this Valentine's Day leaves you disappointed again in the spousing game, you might like to keep this prayer (published last month by Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu) handy:

"Please, God, help me to cleanse my computer of all... evil images that spoil and interfere with my lawful work, and allow me to cleanse myself so that I may be pure of mind and may pray with a perfect heart, and that I may raise a family in true, stable love."
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
buy your ship of fools postcards