Valentine's Day image

When I took on the task of writing an article on the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day, I thought that I really got over on the person at the assignment desk.  Then I started doing my research on the subject.  At least St. Valentine’s Day is actually a church-sanctioned holiday, as Pope Gelasius deemed February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D.

The first problem arose when I found out that there were actually THREE Saints Valentine canonized by the Church of Rome, and no one is certain which one the Feast Day honors.  One was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni, and of a third St. Valentine, almost nothing is known, except that he met his end in Africa.  Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on February 14.

But one was most often selected as the object of the feast: the priest in Rome.  Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine (of the holiday) was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 A.D.  Claudius II thought that unmarried men made better soldiers, so he decided to make it a law that young men could not marry.  Valentine took pity on the ostracized soldiers, who were not permitted to marry or see their sweethearts.

He became an advocate of these young lovers and began to perform secret marriages.  He was soon found out and jailed.  Emperor Claudius attempted to convert Valentine to worshipping the Roman gods, but Valentine refused.  Instead, he tried to convert Claudius to Christianity and Valentine was sentenced to be executed on February 14, 270.

Another legend has it that Valentine, while imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer.  Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.”  These words have been repeated ad infinitum by lovers everywhere.

Even though the history of Valentine’s Day is unclear, it has become one of the most popular holidays among lovers and florists.  The common symbols of Valentine’s Day in this era are cupids, hearts, roses, teddy bears, and words of love and adoration.  Children exchange valentine cards decorated with current comic and cartoon icons.  Adults have continued this tradition of card giving, which makes this day, behind Christmas, the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.

By the way, in 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable.  St. Valentine was one of the casualties.

If you and the one you love plan to celebrate this St. Valentine’s Day, or if you hope to find your Valentine, I wish you the best.  <3

Published February 1, 2012

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