CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Instead of roses, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity has been offering a special novena card for St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
Mona Lisa Biberstein, a SOLT family lay servant on the formation team, went into detail for ZENIT about St. Valentine and about the religious society.
Q: Who is the real St. Valentine?
Biberstein: The following passage has been taken from the back of the novena card. Father Mark Ropel’s team did the research and the information coincides with information from the book “Lives of the Saints,” the revision of the original edition of the Reverend Hugo Hoever, of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, a Ph.D.
St. Valentine was a holy priest in Rome in the third century. St. Valentine, along with St. Maurius and his family, assisted the martyrs who were persecuted under the reign of Claudius III. Emperor Claudius issued an edict in A.D. 270 forbidding marriage because he believed that married men made poor soldiers, not wanting to leave their families.
Valentine, bishop of Interamna, disagreed with the emperor and secretly married young couples. When Claudius found out, Valentine was arrested, and when he would not renounce his faith, he was clubbed and beheaded on the 14th of February, 270.
Q: St. Valentine’s Day is associated of course with love. What is the state of “love” today in the world? Does the world have a realistic view?
Biberstein: I took the liberty of forwarding this question to our co-founder, Father John McHugh, and this is what he has to say:
People who believe in God and love God have a healthy view. Jesus himself gave only one commandment, a new commandment, in John 15:12-13: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Real love comes when we strive to be Christ-like people and love one another as Jesus loves us. We learn much about love when we see Jesus on the cross: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And on the cross Jesus teaches us love and mercy: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
His love for us is shown especially by his forgiveness. We show our love for our fellowmen by forgiving them from the bottom of our hearts. The Jewish people must learn to love the Palestinians and the Palestinian people must learn to love the Jews or they will never be at peace. Irish Catholics must learn to love Irish Protestants and Irish Protestants must learn to love Irish Catholics or they will never live in peace.
A true Christian must, in deed, love all men. Jesus teaches us that we must see him living in all men. Jesus says he will judge us with these words: “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, you do it to me.”
Q: The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is a relatively new group within the Church. Could you explain its history and charism briefly?
Biberstein: The concept of following Jesus Christ after the example of Mary in relationship with the Trinity moved Father James Flanagan to seek permission to establish a religious society with ecclesial teams of priests, religious and laity.
On July 16, 1958, Archbishop Edwin Byrne of Santa Fe, New Mexico, established the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity as a pious society. The society received its decree of canonical establishment on Sept. 9, 1994.
Members of SOLT are sent to live the Marian-Trinitarian spirituality in discipleship of Jesus and Mary in ecclesial teams in graced friendship, living the evangelical counsels according to their state in life, united in the Eucharist, prayer, apostolic teachings, and in the solidarity of apostolic Spirit, serving in areas of deepest apostolic need for the full development of peoples, leading all to discipleship of Jesus and Mary.
Q: The society took over a college in Texas a few years. What kinds of apostolates are planned in North America and elsewhere?
Biberstein: Presently, SOLT has approximately 568 members: priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, and laity — single and married. We will have nine men ordained to the priesthood this year; five by the Holy Father on May 11 and four by our Bishop Edmund Carmody here in Corpus Christi on June 14.
Our Lady’s Society has served in Belize and Mexico since 1967, in Thailand since 1973, in Guatemala and the Philippines since 1975. We have been serving in Haiti for 22 years and in Papua New Guinea for 12 years.
We have our missionaries in England, Italy, Russia and Africa. We also have two priests serving in Macao, China. Today, we serve in over 13 countries and 10 states. In some countries and states, we have several missions. For example, we serve in orphanages in Colon, Mexico, and we have a team serving the large parish of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
In Texas, we serve the Houston, Laredo, Corpus Christi and Robstown areas. This includes Our Lady of Corpus Christi school and we’ve just had our newest addition, our perpetual adoration chapel dedicated on Feb. 1.
In Italy, our international headquarters moved to Rome last year, our seminarians are studying there and our religious sisters serve in Subiaco. We have been invited to establish a new parish in Rome entitled “Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.” Construction of the parish plant will soon begin with the building of a seminary for SOLT theological students.
Our Philippine missions are spread throughout the islands. These are just some examples of missions we are serving. We are always in need of volunteers for our schools in Belize, North Dakota and in Robstown.
The Holy Family Ecclesial Team Formation Center was established five years ago in Robstown, Texas. This is where all vocations come together and learn how to best serve the Lord in an ecclesial team of priests, religious sisters and laity.
After six months of training in the charism of SOLT, the members are sent out into mission in areas of deepest apostolic need. It was during this time of training at the Holy Family Center as an ecclesial team that Father Mark Ropel, with his team came up with the idea of doing a St. Valentine’s Day Novena.