It is pretty amazing, maybe even miraculous, that we have very little information about a Saint who is known throughout the world as the Patron Saint of Lovers. The Church recognizes one Saint Valentine, who died for the faith in Rome on February 14, 269 AD, but it is unclear whether he was a Roman priest, a bishop of Terni, a man who lived in Africa around the same time, or whether these three Valentines are one in the same person. What is clear is that Saint Valentine’s feast day is celebrated all over the world by Christians and non-Christians as the day we take time to do something special for the people we love.
The man we honor as Saint Valentine probably was a third century Roman priest, a dangerous vocation to have at that time. For the first three hundred years after Christ died, it was illegal to be a Christian in Rome, so Christians had to hide their faith and celebrate the sacraments in secret. If they were caught, they would be arrested, beaten and sometimes even killed. The story goes that Emperor Claudius II enacted a law that prohibited young men from getting married so he would have more young men to serve as soldiers in his army. Because the sacraments are so important to the Church, Valentine kept witnessing marriages and celebrating the sacraments even though it was against the law. He was arrested and sent to prison.
The story continues that while in prison, Valentine was questioned about his faith by a judge named Asterius. Asterius challenged Valentine to prove his faith by curing Asterius’ blind daughter. Valentine prayed for the girl, laid his hands on her, and she was healed. Asterius was so moved by God’s healing power that he released Valentine and forty other Christians from prison and became a Christian himself. Valentine was arrested again for continuing to serve Jesus and his Church, but this time he was sent to Emperor Claudius. Claudius liked Valentine, but he became so angry when Valentine tried to convince him to become a Christian that he sentenced Valentine to death. Legend has it that Valentine sent a letter to Judge Asterius’ daughter on the day of his execution, signing it, “from your Valentine.”
We also do not know how Valentine’s Day began to be known as a day we celebrate love. Some say that the tradition came about around the 5th century when several Roman priests encouraged the celebration of Saint Valentine’s feast day in place of a Roman holiday that fell on February 15. Others say that Valentine’s Day has its origin in the medieval belief that birds choose their mates on February 14th. Whatever the origin, there is no doubt that the popularity of Valentine’s Day is a tribute to the power of love. The stories tell us that Saint Valentine lived a life of love – love for God and love for God’s people. When we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love, the greatest gift we receive from God, and the greatest gift we can share with others.
Let us Pray: Saint Valentine, pray that we may always love God and all we hold dear in our hearts. Amen
Feast Day – February 14
Patron Saint of lovers, engaged couples, courtship
Happy Valentine's Day!