FEast: Feb. 14th
happy marriages, love, young people, plague, epilepsy
The identity of the saint we now know as St. Valentine cannot be completely known, unfortunately, since there are at least 3 different St. Valentines known that are related to February 14th. While one was martyred in Africa with almost nothing else known of him, the other two were well-known men of religious life in Italy, and may have possibly been the same person. Both are said to be buried on the Via Flaminia outside of Rome.
The first legend of St. Valentine goes that, while arrested for his Christian beliefs, the judge watching him debated his beliefs and asked him to prove their validity. Valentine did so by restoring the judge's blind daughter's sight. This successfully converted the judge and his whole family, which Valentine baptized. The judge even worked to release all his Christian prisoners.
Valentine could not escape arrest for his work, though, and was brought to Emperor Claudius II who was disgusted by Valentine's attempts to convert him as well. He was given the option to deny his beliefs to avoid his beating and beheading, but he would not. Before he was killed, he was said to have written a letter to the judge's daughter, whom he may have been confessing his love for, and signed it with his name.
Another version of this story that could have inspired the modern tradition of giving "valentines" goes that the saint was in the business of marrying Christian couples secretly. This was punishable by death, not only for the Christianity involved but also because marriage could spare men from being drafted into the army, and this was a time in which the Roman army was suffering in numbers. He was said to have cut paper hearts and given them to the couples to remind them of their vows. It is said that he was beheaded for this, as well.
A relic of St. Valentine's - his skull - is kept in a church in Rome, bearing a crown of flowers.
The celebration of Valentine's day as we know it, however, may have actually been around before such legends were given to St. Valentine's story, rather than the other way around. This is debated because early histories of the saint give no mention of those details or of any romantic traditions until Chaucer's Parlement of Fouls was published. Chaucer was known to have made up traditions in novels that were made to seem like historical facts, and so it is possible the widespread tradition was simply a bi-product of the book. Another theory is that it was made to replace the Roman holiday of Lupercalia. Either way, the pairing of birds as mates in mid-February may have been enough to create a romantic holiday on it's own that just so happened to fall close to the feast of St. Valentine.
You risked your life to do whatever you could for others to make their lives better. Though you performed no grand miracles, you allowed many to live the lives they dreamed of, which is in itself a miracle. Let us never forget that the smallest things we do for others, and especially for love, are meaningful and needed.
I included each of the aspects of Valentine's stories - whether one or all of the legends are true or even relate to the same person. I hoped to catch the gaze of a romantic disposition.