For reasons given earlier, my celebration of the day of St Valentine, Priest and Martyr, will be limited to reading his commemoration at Lauds (see Collect below) and, later on, watching my DVD of Picnic at Hanging Rock, the classic Australian movie of 1975 - based on the eponymous 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay - about the mysterious disappearance of three ladies at Hanging Rock on this day in 1900...
Earlier to-day I ventured into town, and went to confession as usual (of which more anon), before having a rather good breakfast of french toast with bacon, banana and maple syrup (an excellent if unusual combination, probably some American invention, which brought back memories of the only other time I've ever had it - back in 2001 in Lismore, N.S.W., where I'd gone to attend the episcopal consecration of my former parish priest Geoffrey Jarrett: his 8th anniversary as bishop will fall next Sunday) at my local café. Later on, having walked around a bit, I stopped off and read the newspapers with grim determination as I've done all week, learning all the details published about the aftermath of the terrible Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, only a week ago to-day.
The Herald Sun had a horrifying photograph, taken by fleeing residents, of a great tongue of fire shooting into the air as it crested the last ridge and plunged toward doomed Marysville. To think that last Saturday, at 3 pm, a fire broke out (believed to have been deliberately lit) that was to build to become catastrophic in the extreme heat in drought-ravaged tinder-dry bush unburnt in some cases for many decades or more; that by 4.20 pm, Strathewen was burnt to ashes and 30 or more had perished there alone, with no warning; that at 4.30 pm the first warning from a local firespotter reached Marysville, to be disseminated by policemen who persuaded some hundreds to flee, at the same time that Kinglake and environs were incinerated, with the loss of dozens and dozens of lives; that at 5.15 pm the power at Marysville failed as the approaching firestorm destroyed the powerlines; but that as late as 5.50pm the main street of Marysville was choked with backed-up cars, as residents began all too late to flee, with the elderly, the young and the unsure still at home or standing bemused wondering what was going on; and ten minutes later, the bushfire roared in at 100 km/h, with flames at 300°C, the middle of the storm at 1000°C, and blazing with such ferocity that its radiant heat alone killed at 200 m away; and that by 6.30 pm, Marysville had been destroyed, the lone fire crew there powerless to stop it. News of the devastation didn't even read the State fire emergency headquarters till after midnight, when the top officials had gone home. Officially, 15 died at Marysville; the whole town is still closed off, but it is said that the bodies since recovered from the streets, burnt-out cars, and the Cumberland Hotel alone number 35, and no start has yet been made on locating the many people who perished in their homes - the total is widely tipped to pass 100, or one in five of its former residents. God have mercy.
To backtrack, just after I'd made my confession this morning, I was kneeling down at the back of the Church saying three Our Father's for my penance when a Polish lady (why are very pious ladies always Polish?) interrupted me - as I gently pointed out - to give me a flyer about some upcoming talks on "Living in the Divine Will", which is the latest devotion sweeping pious folk. I first came across it several years back, on the same retreat at Galong when I discovered the writings of Dom Anscar Vonier actually (I look across to these on the second-nearest bookcase as I type). Rather un-modestly the flyer, as also the earlier propaganda I'd seen, claims that the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, who apparently received private revelations about the Divine Will, "will be considered the greatest saint after Our Lady and Saint Joseph"! - I must say that this rude and offensive statement alone puts me right off this business: how bereft of seemly humility, to claim that some person not even canonized could be holier than the very Apostles, to say nothing of the courageous saints and martyrs of all ages. It reminds me of how, when Eva Peron died of cancer, her hysterical votaries petitioned the Vatican to instantly declare her a saint, vowing Eva to have been second only to the Virgin Mary (Eva, of course, being neither virgin nor mother) - Pius XII was not amused.
As with many devotions propagated, this Divine Will business claims to be a most speedy route to unheard-of holiness. I recall from my reading of sundry pamphlets about it at Galong, and such as came my way in Hobart some years back, that there is even some extraordinarily complicated chaplet which one is to recite, and some likewise involved Octave of preparation for consecration to the Divine Will, et cetera. [Correction: no, the chaplet and octave are parts of the God the Father devotion - mea culpa.] I recall that this novel devotion appeals to much the same group of laity as those who are all hot for having a Feast of God the Father (which the Holy See has knocked back for centuries), and those who run from one Marian apparition to the next, approved or unapproved, if not also dabbling in charismatic pursuits; the buying and reading of various collected works of visionaries is another favoured task. It seems to appeal to a certain class of middle-aged women.
In any case, here is a transcript of the A4 flyer I was handed (complete with photograph of a resigned-looking Luisa Piccarreta sitting up in bed, gazing heavenwards with hands clasped):
Invitation to:[Photograph with caption,[The Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, Little Daughter of the Divine Will]Living in the Divine Willan Introduction and Reflection on the Divine Willand the life of Luisa PiccarretaThis is a series of talks over three days. Come and learn about the third Fiat, how to live in [sic] Divine Will on earth as it is in Heaven, as revealed to Luisa Piccarreta over 60 years.Canonized saint Padre Pio said the world will be full of Luisa [clearly!]. Luisa will be considered the greatest saint after Our Lady and Saint Joseph [oh, will she?].Guest speaker from Queensland, Sue Carroll, who has been co-ordinating and teaching on learning to live in the Divine Will, is visiting Tasmania soon, Hobart and then Launceston.All are welcome. Why not come and join us. [sic]Launceston:Thursday 5th - Saturday 7th MarchThursday 10.00 am - 4.00 pmThursday evening 7.30 pm - 9.00 pmFriday 10.00 am - 4.00 pmFriday evening 7.30 pm - 9.00 pmSaturday 10.00 am - 12.30 pmWhere: St. Francis [of] Assisi Church Hall, Pomona Rd, Riverside.Contact: Ellen Cooper on: 6327 4818BYO Lunch. Tea & Coffee provided.
I don't think I'll be going.
Finally, as promised, the Collect of St Valentine, which I consider all too appropriate both personally and in light of the ongoing bushfires:
Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui beati Valentini Martyris tui natalitia colimus, a cunctis malis imminentibus, ejus intercessione, libereremur. Per...(Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who celebrate the natal day of blessed Valentine Thy Martyr, from all threatening evils, at his intercession, may be delivered. Through...)