Thursday, February 7, 2013

Godly Play: St.Valentine

As preparation for celebrating St. Valentine's Day on Feb. 14, I decided to go ahead and tell this story from Godly Play Volume 7 early. As many of you may remember, I started working my way through this volume last year. Since it is only available in English, I have been using it mainly for my own children. As I'm only averaging about 4 saints a year, I'll have them all done hopefully at the end of 2014.: )

Materials for the story:
1. St. Valentine peg doll
2. mortar & pestle
3. white felt crocus
4. scroll with "From your Valentine" written inside
5. purple underlay (since Feb. 14 falls during the time of Lent this year)

You may notice that this peg figure has eyes, while my other saints do not.
My dilemma was that Valentine is usually pictured with a beard, and
he would have looked really strange with a beard and no eyes! Maybe
I will have to add eyes to the others.
To tell you the truth, I avoided telling this story last year. Why? Because there are so many different versions of Valentine's story, and it is difficult to trace his historical facts. The legend may even be a conglomeration of two different persons. And because my children first learned about Valentine from a book with a slightly different take on his story, I thought it might confuse them to tell the Godly Play version.

But as I read and re-read the Valentine story in Volume 7, it began to grow on me, because it is a great example of someone selflessly loving another. A common thread running through each of the stories in Volume 7 is a dramatic childhood experience, either in the life of the saint or someone that he/she loved. In Valentine's story, this child is the jailer's daughter, who has been born blind.  As he is led away to his execution, Valentine thinks not of himself, but of the little girl that he has befriended. The story ends with the little girl's father reading her the note that Valentine has left for her. As she opens it, a white crocus, her favorite flower, falls out of the rolled up note. When she bends to pick it up, she realizes that she can see it. 

As I had previously suspected, my kids (ages 7 and 9) were thrown off by the differences in the details of Valentine's life that they had previously read in a storybook that we have. In that book, a big deal is made of Valentine marrying people in secret, because the Roman emperor had outlawed marriage in order to get more recruits for his army. In the GP version, Valentine is a doctor as well as a priest and more is said about his gathering herbs to help cure his patients. The kids had lots of questions about why the Godly Play story does not mention him marrying people. My response was to say that maybe the writer of the story decided that this was something we could leave out and still have everything we needed for the story. :) I then added that we don't have many written historical facts about Valentine from that time period, so there are several legends about him. I think any storyteller should be prepared for questions like this from children about Valentine's story, because the truth is that we can't historically trace much of his life.

After we got beyond this, we able to wonder about his life. What did we like best in the story? That Valentine prayed for his patients and he prayed for the little girl the most. That he was friends with the little girl. What was most important? That he thought about her in his last moments and not just about himself. What part of the story tells something about us? One child answered that he liked herbs just like Valentine. 

One of our children wondered some more in the Response Time:

The picture is unfinished, but you can clearly see elements of the story. It was unusual to see this child wondering about the story that was just told - in Godly Play children often wonder about a story they heard earlier and not the one that was just told - but very nice.

Hope your Valentine's celebration next week is lots of fun! 

You can read about our family's traditions in this post from last year

Linked to Montessori Monday at Living Montessori Now

and Eco Kids' Tuesday at Organic Aspirations and Like Mother - Like Daughter

and Waldorf Wednesday at Seasons of Joy


  1. Interesting. I have never heard that story before. I like the idea of storytelling with a few props and also like the questions you asked the children after the story was told.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Angela! These particular questions are used for the genre of Godly Play stories called "Sacred Stories" that deal with identity. There is also a 4th question: "What could we leave out and still have everything we need for the story?" The questions are designed to help children place themselves within the story and explore it up-close.

      I just saw your felting blog - it's beautiful!

  2. I love what you did with the story, Sheila ... a wonderful way to add Godly Play to Valentine's Day! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday! I featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page:

    1. Thank you, Deb! I love being a part of your community!

  3. You have convinced me Sheila, I'm going to buy that Godly Play book! I really love your St. Valentine's Day presentation, especially since I'm always looking for ways to bring the "saint" back into the holiday. I'll be preparing a little presentation like this for next year. Thank you for the inspiring and helpful post!


    1. Oh, that's so exciting, Cheryl! I'd love to hear your thoughts after you've done a couple of stories about how the presentations compare with CoGS presentations.

  4. It is very interesting. I want to teach Bunny the "truth" about the holidays and related saints. Thanks for sharing your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday. Hope to see you back today!

  5. I enjoy you posting how you share the stories of the saints so much!

    Thank you for posting on Waldorf Wednesday. Hope to see you back this week!