The second important feast is that of St. Matthias the Apostle (24 February). When the apostles met and prayed in the nine days between Jesus’ ascension and the day of Pentecost, St. Matthias was selected to replace Judas Iscariot. This story is found at Acts 1.21-22, which tells us nothing more about Matthias. Traditionally, Matthias is remembered as an example to Christians of one whose faithful companionship with Jesus qualifies him to be a suitable witness to the resurrection of our Lord, and one whose service is unheralded and unsung.
10 February is the feast of St. Scholastica (d. 543), the first Benedictine nun. Benedict’s sixth century Rule remains the basis of monastic living in most communities to this day. The Rule also played a role in the founding of this parish, as a daughter of Nashotah House, where the Rule (in a relaxed form) is maintained. The Rule has very much to commend itself to the rest of us—to those not living under religious vows. How? The Rule first makes clear that we are to pray and work (“ora et labora”), that our daily vocations must be a form of offering to God. The Rule includes emphases on work, study (of God’s word) and prayer as a way of living which forms us. The Rule also includes vows, one of which is of stability, of the reality that God has planted us in a particular place. We are to seek Him where He has planted us; we’re not going to find Him somewhere else!
Another Anglo-Saxon day that has become associated with a Christian saint is 14 February, St. Valentine’s day (which is not on the Church Calendar). St. Valentine was a third century martyr in Rome, and his life bears no connection with traditions of romantic love and betrothal. However, on the Anglo-Saxon calendar this was the day when birds were thought to select their mates, and the saint’s feast “baptized” this day into a Christian consciousness, furthered by the growth of the idea of romantic love in Medieval times. The Church observes 14 February as the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, apostles to the Slavs (and inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet as used in Russian). These saints are remembered locally in a Roman Catholic parish founded by the Slovenian community in Sheboygan.
Lesser feasts in February include that of St. Anskar (d. 865, feast 3 February), the missionary to the Nordic peoples; Bl. Absalom Jones (13 February), the first African-American ordained (1802) a priest in the Episcopal Church. A feast of an important martyr, Polycarp of Smyrna (d. 156) is celebrated on 23 February, remembering a bishop ordained by the apostle John, and so an important link in the chain of eyewitness testimony about the life and ministry of Jesus. With Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is one of the three principal Apostolic Fathers, seminal witnesses and theologians who personally knew apostles and who were instrumental in the formation of the early Church. Polycarp, martyred by burning and stabbing at age 86, is remembered for his Letter to the Philippians, an important witness to the writings that came to be the New Testament, and for his words in facing death. As an old man, Polycarp was offered to option to avoid death, if he would deny Jesus Christ. His last words were: “How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked.”
Finally, let us not forget St. Cornelius the Centurion (Acts 10; feast 4 February), the first Gentile to be baptized; and George Hebert (d. 1633; feast 27 February), an English priest important in the development of a distinctive Anglican understanding of life in the Spirit, and remembered for his poetry, five poems of which are set to music in our hymnal.