UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

St Valentine

Italy

At least three different St Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in ancient calendars of saints for 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna, and both suffered martyrdom in the second half of the third century and were buried on the Flaminian Way near Rome. Of both these St Valentines some stories are preserved, but they are of relatively late date and of little historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

Because of these ambiguities, St Valentine was omitted from the Catholic calendar of saints for universal veneration when it was revised in 1969. But the ‘Martyr Valentinus who died on the 14th of February on the Via Flaminia close to the Milvian bridge in Rome’ is still in the list of officially recognized saints for local veneration.

The Nuremberg Chronicle, a collection of stories about saints dated 1493, states that St Valentine was a Roman priest during the reign of Claudius II. It says he was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Valentine was beaten with clubs and stones and then beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for his martyrdom: 269, 270, or 273.

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day, however, probably have their origin in a conventional belief in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. The day was thus looked upon as a special day for lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens.

St Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate Christian love and to thank the Lord for the love in our life, and to give gifts to the ones who have opened our hearts.