Introduction: Who is Saint Valentine?
Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest in the Roman Empire who ministered to Christians, who were persecuted there. He was martyred and buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) since 496 AD. The relics of Saint Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV. The flower-crowned skull of Saint Valentine is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics were brought to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland where they remain to this day; this church continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love.
In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar given the paucity of information about him. The Roman Catholic Church continues to recognize him as a saint, listing him as such in the February 14 entry in the Roman Martyrology, and authorizing liturgical veneration of him on February 14 in any place where that day is not devoted to some other obligatory celebration in accordance with the rule that on such a day the Mass may be that of any saint listed in the Martyrology for that day.
Saint Valentine (Italian: San Valentino, Latin: Valentinus), officially Saint Valentine of Rome, was a widely recognized 3rd-century Roman saint commemorated on February 14 and since the High Middle Ages is associated with a tradition of courtly love.
The apparent confusion
The Catholic Encyclopaedia and other hagiographical sources speak of three Saint Valentines that appear in connection with February 14. One was a Roman priest, another the bishop of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) both buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city. The third was said to be a saint who suffered on the same day with several companions in the Roman province of Africa, of whom nothing else is known.
According to Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas, abstracts of the acts of the first two saints (that is Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni) were in nearly every church and monastery of Europe. Although, the extant accounts of the martyrdoms of these saints are of a late date and contain legendary elements, a common nucleus of fact may underlie the two accounts and they may refer to a single person. This is because according to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna and while on a temporary stay in Rome he was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred there on February 14, 269. His body was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.
Moreover, the Roman Martyrology, the Catholic Church’s official list of recognized saints, for February 14 gives only one Saint Valentine: a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia.
Some stories associated with Saint Valentine: His faith, brilliance, zeal, love for young couples and martyrdom.
A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine as a priest of Rome or as the former Bishop of Terni, an important town of Umbria, in central Italy. The first legend holds that while he was under house arrest of Judge Asterius for refusing to sacrifice to pagan gods, he shared his faith with the judge in which Valentinus was discussing the validity of Jesus and of Christianity. He was very brilliant, and his intelligence was widespread in the empire. However, the judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentinus, praying to God, laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all the idols around the judge’s house should be broken, and that the judge should fast for three days and then undergo the Christian sacrament of baptism. The judge obeyed and, as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four members household (family members and servants) were baptized. Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to evangelize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, and later to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. Claudius took a liking to him until Valentinus tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity, whereupon Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius’ command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate February 14, 269. An embellishment to this account states that before his execution, Saint Valentine wrote a note to Asterius’s daughter whom he had healed of blindness and signed “from your Valentine”, which is said to have “inspired today’s romantic missives”.
Another legend is that in the 3rd century AD, it is said that Valentine, who was a priest, defied the order of the emperor Claudius and secretly performed Christian weddings for young couples who were in love. Such marriage would thus exempt their husbands from going to war. This legend claims that soldiers were sparse at this time, so this was a big inconvenience to the emperor. The account mentions that in order to remind these men of their vows and God’s love, Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to these soldiers and persecuted Christians. This is a possible origin of the widespread use of hearts on St. Valentine’s Day.
One thing that is clear from all these legends is that Saint Valentine is known to have ministered to the faithful amidst the Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire in the time of Claudius II. Preaching the gospel using every available means and space, healing the sick and celebrating the Christian sacraments especially of marriage. This earned him the obvious crown of martyrdom.
You might notice that there is a bit of romance missing from these stories. This is because the source of the courtship and love that has been linked into Valentine’s feast day does not come from the saint at all. The proposition that the association of Valentine with romantic rites is due to largely futile efforts of early religious Christian leaders to do away with pagan festivals by substituting a Christian observance is a modern interpolation. According to this theory, February 14 was traditionally the Roman festival of Lupercalia, an important day to honour Juno, the Queen of Heaven and protector of women. The wife of Jupiter, Juno was said to bestow her blessing on courtship rituals or marriages celebrated that day. According to proponents of this theory, Valentine’s Day is more accurately a continuation of Lupercalia shrouded in Catholic appropriation. More so, that Valentine’s February saint day coincides with the slow dawn of spring when birds are said to select mates seems to support this propaganda.
The place of Saint Valentine in the Liturgical Calendar
Saint Valentine remains in the Roman Catholic Church’s official list of saints, the Roman Martyrology, but, in view of the scarcity of information about him, his commemoration was removed from the General Roman Calendar, when this was revised in 1969. It is included in local calendars of places such as Balzan in Malta. Some Traditionalist Catholics observe earlier calendars of the Roman Rite, in which Saint Valentine was celebrated as a Simple Feast until 1955, when Pope Pius XII reduced the mention of him to a commemoration in the Mass of the day, a position it kept in the General Roman Calendar of 1960 incorporated in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, use of which, as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, is still authorized in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St. Valentine is recognized on July 6, in which Saint Valentine, the Roman presbyter, is honoured; in addition, the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the feast of Hieromartyr Valentine, Bishop of Interamna, on July 30. Members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) may observe their name day on the Western ecclesiastical calendar date of February 14. He is also the Patron Saint of Bee Keepers, Plague and Epilepsy.
While there is some apparent confusion as to which of three possible martyrs named Valentine is the saint that is celebrated on that day, it is now clear that he was either a priest or a bishop in Terni, Italy, and that his love for God and his faithfulness was all-encompassing. Following Jesus’ teachings closely, he also had a great love for mankind. It is believed that he committed the crimes of marrying Christians and helping Christians who were being persecuted by Claudius II, the emperor of Rome. Because he would not renounce his faith and because he tried to convert the emperor, he was sentenced to and suffered a brutal death. Over the years and among other things, he has come to be known as the patron saint of love, young people, engaged couples and happy marriages. Although people can pray to Saint Valentine at any stage in their relationship, he seems to be an ideal saint to turn to for young people in love and engaged couples.
Today we celebrate another feast day of this great Saint. Amidst the confusion in today´s world, this Saint´s life encourages us to love God and love humanity. If we love God, then we will not be shy or afraid to profess this faith publicly and even helping others to understand this faith as well (evangelization); if we love humanity, we will not need to be reminded to reach out to one another especially to those who suffer want, hunger, sickness, depression and persecutions of all sorts and we will be committed to express our love publicly to our soul mate by seeking God´s blessings in Holy Matrimony. “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God” says the author of the First Letter of John Chapter 4 verse 16. “Love is patient and kind” says the Apostle Paul (Cf. 1Cor 13: 4 –8).
Prayer to Saint Valentine
Dear Saint and glorious martyr teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other. Let them love each other in God and in God in each other.
Love is patient and kind
it does not envy or boast
and it´s never proud,
love is not rude or selfish,
it does not get angry easily,
or keep track of wrongs.
Love does not delight in bad
things but it rejoices in the truth.
Love always protects,
trusts, hopes and perseveres
Love never fails.
Saint Valentine – Pray for us