Valentine’s Day – the saint who started a tradition

Saint Valentine… 

  1. a) was a Roman priest who performed secret weddings after marriage was outlawed
  2. b) helped Christians escape from Roman prisons, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and wrote a letter for her signed ‘From your Valentine’
  3. c) restored the sight of the jailer’s daughter
  4. d) restored the sight of a Judge’s daughter
  5. e) was the Bishop of Terni
  6. f) beheaded on February 14
  7. g) martyred in Africa
  8. h) some or all the above!

 Who was Saint Valentine and why do we show love on 14 February? 

Although we celebrate Valentine’s day on 14 February every year, little is known about the day’s namesake. 

The first written accounts of St Valentine date back to 500AD, but there is much confusion over his identity. 

There are tales of a Roman priest who in 269AD performed secret weddings after marriage was outlawed by Emperor Claudius who believed single men made better soldiers. 

And myths of a priest who helped Christians escape from prisons, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and before his death wrote her a letter signed ‘From your Valentine’. 

Some people believe Valentine restored the sight of the jailer’s daughter, although others say he was the Bishop of Terni who, while under house arrest by Judge Asterius, healed the Judge’s daughter’s vision. 

One thing is common, St Valentine showed love for the Lord and His Church and most stories suggest he was martyred on 14 February with Pope Gelasius decreeing in 496 that day to be the feast of St Valentine.  

Some believe the customs of showing love and affection on Valentine’s Day may be a coincidence because it occurs at the same time as an ancient Roman fertility festival Lupercalia or even because it was believed in medieval times that birds began to pair in mid-February.  

Legend has it that Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent the first real Valentine card to his wife in 1415, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. There are many other anecdotes from poets, Dames among others. 

The Catholic Church removed St Valentine’s feast day from the Liturgical Calendar in1969, due to the confusion surrounding its origins, but the celebration remains. 

Whoever St Valentine was, the stories tell us that he fulfilled Jesus’ wish to “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12-13) and today is a reminder to do the same.

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