CYRIL, MONK, AND METHODIUS,BISHOP; VALENTINE, MARTYR
By Richard Mc Brien
Cyril (826–69) and Methodius (ca. 815–85) are known as the “apostles of the Slavs” and were named by Pope John Paul II as the patron saints of Europe, alongside Benedict of Nursia [ July 11]. Their principal missions were to territories encompassed by the modern-day Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Cyril was educated in Constantinople. After ordination to the priesthood, he was appointed librarian at the Hagia Sophia, the principal church in Eastern Christendom. He later joined his brother Methodius, who, after a brief government career, entered a monastery in Bithynia.
Both were commissioned by the emperor Michael III ca. 862 to become missionaries in Moravia at the request of the local ruler, Rostislav, who wanted Cyril and Methodius, who had spoken Slavonic since childhood, to teach in the vernacular. In order to put spoken Slavonic in written form, Cyril invented a Slavonic alphabet (from which Cyrillic was derived), based on the Greek alphabet, and then he and Methodius together translated major portions of the Bible and the liturgy.
For mainly political reasons, the German bishops opposed Cyril and Methodius’s missionary efforts, especially their advocacy of the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, and refused to ordain them or their disciples. But Pope Hadrian II approved the Slavonic liturgy and ordained
Methodius and three of their disciples as priests. Already afflicted with serious health problems, Cyril died at age forty-two, on February 14, 869.
In 870, Methodius was consecrated archbishop of Sirmium. Once again, however, the German bishops and Hungarian clergy opposed him, and he was exiled. In 879 Methodius was called to Rome to answer charges of heresy and disobedience. After he was found innocent, he returned to Moravia in 880 with his appointment as archbishop confirmed and with papal permission to use the Slavonic language in the liturgy restored. During the last four years of his life, he translated the entire Bible into Slavonic, with the exception of Maccabees. He died on April 6, 885. The feast of Cyril and Methodius is on the General Roman Calendar and is celebrated on May 11 in the East.
February 14 is also St. Valentine’s Day. Valentine was a third-century Roman martyr with a very early cult. It is not clear how his cult became linked with lovers. His feast was suppressed in the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar.