We all know Valentine’s Day to be a fun celebration of love, couples and chocolate. But where did it all come from?
The answer is Saint Valentine. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes Saint Valentine as the patron saint of “love, young people and happy marriages.” This begins to explain the romantic nature of the holiday. The history of Saint Valentine is unclear; his name actually represents two possible Catholic martyrs. In some accounts, he is depicted as a Roman priest. Although the person or persons behind the name is vague, there are some fascinating stories and legends that have followed Saint Valentine throughout history.
Valentine was a holy priest around the year 270 A.D. The emperor of Rome, Claudius II, was struggling to recruit soldiers for the military. He believed this was because of men’s attachment to their wives and families. Claudius attempted to eradicate the problem by banning all engagements and marriages in Rome. Valentine saw the injustice in this and married young lovers in secret.
Against the authority figures of the third century, Valentine continued performing marriages for these couples, uniting families and thus, keeping husbands from going to war. Valentine’s rebellious actions were soon discovered, and Claudius ordered that Valentine be put to death. Many accounts confirm he was first imprisoned. While in jail, Valentine made friends with and miraculously healed his captor’s blind daughter. He later wrote her a letter, signing it, “Your Valentine.” Valentine is said to have called upon the grace of God to perform this miracle, as he was also in jail for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. This miracle is said to have converted many to be Christians.
On Feb. 14, St. Valentine was dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who sentenced him to be beaten to death with clubs and have his head cut off. Essentially, Saint Valentine was beheaded for marrying couples as well as preaching the name of Jesus Christ.
Valentine’s life is unclear but real. Archaeologists have found an ancient church and a Roman catacomb both dedicated to the saint. Pope Julius I supposedly built a church in Rome near Ponte Mole in Valentine’s memory. Now referred to as a gate called Porta del Popolo, it was then called Porta Valentini after Saint Valentine.
Although Saint Valentine was removed from the general Roman calendar because of the unreliable information about him, he is still a saint and Catholics can ask him to pray for them for a myriad of things. According to Catholic Online and other sources, Saint Valentine is officially the patron saint of engaged couples, beekeepers, affianced couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses. His feast day is celebrated on Feb. 14. We have Saint Valentine and the Catholic Church to thank for this holiday which we use to honor love, devotion and marriage.
By sending one another Valentine’s on this special day, we mimic the way Saint Valentine sent his captor’s daughter a letter after affectionately and miraculously healing her. Rather than being down about being single or away from loved ones on Valentine’s day, we can think of it as a day of healing and love for the people around us!