Saturday 14 February 2015

Happy (Bishop Francis) Valentine (Allen)'s Day

It should be easy to write a blog post about a feast day named for a saint. However, St. Valentine is one of those early Christian martyrs whose hagiography is so vague that the Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 (although he is still recognized on February 14th in the Roman Martyrology).

Disclosure: We have absolutely no archival records remotely alluding to St. Valentine’s Day.

Instead, we are taking this opportunity to highlight our own Most. Rev. Francis Valentine Allen, Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto from 1954-1977.  His middle name, from the Latin valens (meaning "strong, vigorous, healthy") honours his father, Valentine James Allen.

Interesting facts about Bishop Francis Valentine Allen: 

  • Bishop Francis Valentine Allen (Frank to his friends) was a true Torontonian. He was born in Toronto on June 25th, 1909.  He attended Toronto schools, was ordained at St. Michael's Cathedral and served in Toronto his whole life.
  • Francis was brought up in a devout household; of the seven children in his family, the four girls became religious sisters, and two of the three boys became priests. 

Photographs Collection PH 11/07P and PH 11/13P

Left: Studio family portrait shows two-year-old Francis V. Allen held by his mother Martha, with older brother Edward and maternal aunt Annie Malcolm, ca. 1911.  Edward was the only sibling who did not enter religious life.

Right: All seven Allen siblings, including Edward (in the suit), Murray (centre) and Francis (right).  Three of the four sisters were members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. 

  • Father Allen served as pastor at a few parishes, but he quickly gained more responsibility. He was named Secretary of St. Augustine’s Seminary in 1935, Vice-Chancellor in Temporalibus in 1936 and Chancellor in Spiritualibus in 1942.
  • Father Allen accompanied Cardinal McGuigan to Rome for the Cardinal's reception of the Red Hat and while there was named a Domestic Prelate (Monsignor) by Pope Pius XII in 1946.
Photographs Collection PH 09C/11P

In 1946, Archbishop McGuigan was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals and Rev. Allen accompanied him to the consistory. Pictured on the tarmac, departing for Rome are: Msgr. John V. Harris, Rev. Francis V. Allen, Most Rev. James McGuigan and Catholic journalist Henry Somerville.

  • In 1954, Monsignor Allen was appointed titular Bishop of Avensa (in North Africa) and Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal McGuigan. As well as assisting Cardinal McGuigan, Bishop Allen continued as Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. He was Toronto’s third Auxiliary Bishop.
Photographs Collection PH11/04P

This official portrait of Francis V. Allen shows him wearing a pectoral cross, which is a sign of a bishop’s office. Bishop Allen wrote, “The Pectoral Cross, worn on the breast, is a sign of episcopal dignity. It signifies the love which should burn in the breast of the Bishop for the Cross and his Crucified Lord. Usually this cross contains relics of the True Cross or of the Martyrs.”  (AL SR15.04)

Interesting fact about this pectoral cross: the images are actually inlaid micro-mosaics, which are made of many tiny, tiny pieces of opaque glass.
Bishop Allen fonds, Stationery sets

Bishop Allen's motto: Ad Jesum Per Mariam (To Jesus Through Mary) - particularly appropriate as he was named bishop during a Marian Year.
Bishop Allen's coat of arms:
  • Green Galero (hat) with six tassels representing the office of Bishop. 
  • Top half of shield: arm holding a cross representing St. Francis of Assisi, the bishop's patron saint
  • Bottom left of shield: pierced heart representing Our Lady of Sorrows. He was a long time pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Etobicoke.
  • Bottom right of shield: a cross from the Allen coat of arms.

  • Bishop Allen was also involved in various other activities. He was a Council Father at the Second Vatican Council. He was Chairman of the Archdiocesan High School Board, the Archdiocesan Moderator of Religious Congregations, Moderator of the Holy Name Society of Canada and was on the board of the Catholic Church Extension Society.
  • Francis Valentine Allen died on October 7, 1977, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and the anniversary of his episcopal consecration. More than 1200 people attended his funeral. He was interred in the family plot in Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto. Allen was 68 years old, a priest for 44 years and a bishop for 23 years.
  • His eponymous Toronto high school, Bishop Allen Academy, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Bishop Allen wrote extensively on Catholic education in high schools: 
“Education of the whole man necessarily includes a fourfold development: physical, mental, moral and spiritual. Not only must the body and mind be educated, but the soul also must grow and develop along the lines determined by its Creator, if the child’s development is to be entire and his education complete.”

Read a full biography here.

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