“Today is a very special day in the Church. Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten penitential season.
Even if there is no mention at all of St. Valentine at today’s Sunday Mass, the day will be celebrated with great joy in the secular world. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” “Happy Hearts Day!” Greetings will be sent to loved ones. Even by those who know nothing of St. Valentine.
So who is St. Valentine? Why is February 14 celebrated as a day dedicated to love?
Three Saint Valentines were listed for February 14 in some early documentary sources. One was martyred in the Roman province of Africa. Nothing is known about him. About the other two, one was a priest in Rome and the other a bishop in ancient Iterramna (now modern Terni, Italy). Both were buried in Rome. They may be a single person.
Let us refer to the official biography of Bishop Valentine in the Diocese of Terni. He was born and lived in Iteramna. While staying briefly in Rome, he was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred on the Via Flaminia, Rome, on 14 February 269. He was buried in a nearby cemetery and a few nights later his disciples retrieved his body and returned him home.
When he was under house arrest, he discussed his faith with the judge. To test him, the judge brought his blind daughter to Bishop Valentine. The Bishop restored her sight. In gratitude he followed Valentine’s instructions to destroy all his idols. He and his household were baptized. But continuing to evangelize, he was arrested and brought to Emperor Claudius II. Claudius ordered him to renounce his faith. He refused. The emperor, therefore, ordered him to be tortured and executed.
Stories grew around Bishop Valentine. It is said that before his execution, he wrote a letter to the girl, whose sight he had restored. He signed the letter, “from your Valentine.” Another story is that he secretly married Roman soldiers and to help sustain their marital fidelity, he gave them paper hearts, cut from parchments. Such stories may have inspired the secular celebration of Valentine’s day, “you are my valentine.”
His name is derived from the Latin word, “valens” – strong, powerful. His fidelity to the faith, despite severe torture and then execution, proves his courage and love of the Lord. He was included in the list of Saints. Since 496 his feast has been celebrated on February 14. His relics are kept in different places — in two churches in Rome and in the Carmelite Church in Dublin.
In 1969 St. Valentine’s name was removed from the General Roman Calendar. So little is really known about him. He remains on the list of venerated Saints.”
From: Orlando Beltran Cardinal Quevedo, OMI
Photo Credit: Jorge Pineda III