St. Valentine's Day
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
There are numerous accounts about St. Valentine (or Valentino), and I have yet to find one that agrees with the other. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged St. Valentine was a patron saint, but had him removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 because there is just not enough factual information about him.
The most popular candidate for Valentine is a Roman priest who served during the third century. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers assuming they would be more devoted to Rome than a married man with children. He therefore outlawed young men to marry. Valentine disregarded the decree, secretly performing marriage ceremonies for young lovers. This was the beginning of Valentine's affiliation to romantic love.
Claudius eventually discovered what Valentine was doing, and ordered him to be put to death on February 14, 273 AD.
His contender is bishop Valentine of Terni who was beheaded just outside Rome by the same Emperor Claudius II around 270 AD. Many centuries later his remains were exhumed and moved back to Terni. He was then venerated by the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches and became the patron saint of lovers.
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
- Lao Tzu, Philosopher, Writer & Founder of Taoism
Other stories claim these are not two separate men – the priest and bishop are actually the same person – just two different versions of the same original account. One of the legends suggests that when Valentine was imprisoned, he sent a letter to a young woman he fell in love with (yet another account suggests Valentine cured her blindness). She was reported to be the jailer’s daughter and often came to visit him while in prison. He signed the letter ‘from your Valentine’ - a valediction we continue to use, even today.
Although the man behind St. Valentine may remain a mystery, we can agree he is an icon representing one of the most romantic events of the year. Over the centuries, stories surrounding priest and bishop Valentine spread and evolved, conveying a most compassionate and heroic image; above all, a man who believed in the power of love. By the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most beloved saints in England and France. It was Great Britain who, around the 17th century, began to popularize the more traditional Valentine celebrations.
Up until the 1900's, people created cards by hand, exchanging handwritten words of affection and love. This changed exponentially when printed cards hit the shelves. Today, many places in the world continue to celebrate Valentine’s Day as candy, flowers and pretty correspondences are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of romance. According to the Greeting Card Association, there are approximately 145 million Valentine’s Day cards given out each year (second only to Christmas). It is estimated women purchase 85% of the Valentines – things that make you go hmmmm?
"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep
because reality is finally better than your dreams."
- Dr. Seuss, Author, illustrator, Poet & Filmmaker
You might think it makes perfect sense to celebrate St. Valentine on the anniversary of his death. But the consensus is that in 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I used the event to Christianize and replace Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival. This pagan gala was celebrated from February 13 – 15 to commemorate the god Faunus who protected cattle from the attack of wolves. It was also in honour of “La Lupa” the mythical she-wolf who nursed the twins Romulus and Remus (their story is an account of the events leading to the founding of Rome).
Piglet: "How do you spell 'love'?"
Pooh: "You don't spell it . You feel it."
There are words to describe the various kinds of love. Ancient Greek Philosophers distinguished three kinds of concepts which could be called love in the proper sense of the word: Eros is that passionate, romantic love we typically associate with this time of year. Philia is more affectionate, more of a friendship or brotherly-type of love and Agape describes a deeper spiritual love. Valentine’s Day is seen as a day for lovers of all ages, but it is only one of many relationships that adds so much value to our lives.
The wonderous thing St. Valentine’s Day brings is that people pause and think about how they can celebrate their partner, their parent, their child. In the busy day-to-day, it is easy to take your loved one for granted, and a day dedicated to love may be just what we need to remind us how special others are in our life.
As a result, we can easily bypass another form of love: Philautia, better known as Love of Self. This is a healthy form of love where you recognize your personal value and all you contribute to others and the world at large. Take this time to send some love your way. Spend time in contemplation and meditation and ask yourself if your needs are being met. Visualize what a healthy mind, body and Spirit would look like and then create an environment that nurtures your well-being. If there is time, pamper yourself with a long soak in a bathtub filled with scented bubbles of jasmine or hyacinth. Remember, always, be kind to yourself.