Did you know that there is indeed a history to the celebration of Valentine’s Day? From the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website (usccb.org):
“Today is the feast day of St. Valentine. Did you know St. Valentine was a real person? Well, actually there are at least 2 St. Valentines in the ancient martyrology of the Church. While very little is known about Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, we do know that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th his feast day in 496. He is the patron saint of happy marriages, engaged couples and young people….
It is believed that Valentine was a priest arrested by the Emperor Claudius for marrying Christian couples secretly during a time of persecution in the Church. Legend has it that while he was imprisoned and waiting for his martyrdom, he sent letters to his fellow Christians signing them, “From Your Valentine.”
Matthew Bunson, an apologist at EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), tells us that not only was St. Valentine a Roman priest and martyr, executed on February 14th, but that he was also a physician, that he was probably flogged and/or beheaded and that he was buried on the Via Flaminia, with a basilica erected on the spot where he was buried in the year 350. However, there is mention of another Valentine who was the bishop of Terni near Riome, although these two Valentines may be the same individual.
Going back to the tradition of sending missives, the Catholic Encyclopedia provides us with a history of this practice:
“The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus, in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read: ‘For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.’ For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice.”
We know for sure that St. Valentine was a martyr and that he gave his life for Jesus with great love and loyalty. Could we be that brave as to give our lives for our Faith, for Jesus? I have asked myself that question and I believe that because I am such a determined and stubborn individual, and because I love Jesus so much, that I would be able to do so, although I would need unending help from Him. Accordingly, it is most appropriate to concentrate on the Gospel today from St. Luke 9:22-25:
Jesus said to His disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
With love and respect,
Usccb.org (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops); ewtn.com (Eternal Word Television Network)