Valentine was a priest in Rome during the 3rd century, at a time when the Emperor Claudius II forbade the practice of Christianity and executed any who disobeyed him. But Valentine ignored the law, and he comforted persecuted martyrs and may even have married Christian couples. Arrested, he was brought before Claudius, who demanded Valentine renounce his father and accept the pagan gods of Rome. Valentine refused to comply. It is said that Claudius had him imprisoned by a magistrate, whose daughter happened to be blind. Valentine cured her, converting the magistrate and his entire family to Christianity. Enraged, Claudius had Valentine beaten, stoned and beheaded. Legend tells us that he sent the girl a farewell note, signing it "from your Valentine."
Another story explaining the tradition of exchanging cards and presents on Valentine's Day tells of the Roman Feast of Lupercalia. It was a pagan love festival that took place in the middle of February: boys drew the names of girls in honor of the fertility goddess Februata Juno, and couples were supposedly paired off for the year. The Church was anxious to discourage any pagan activities, so they established February 14th as St. Valentine's Day. Yet another story evolved from the medieval belief that birds begin to mate on February 14th, making it an ideal day for lovers.
Today, St. Valentine is honored as a true patron of love, not because of an ancient belief or festival, but because he made the ultimate sacrifice - he gave his life for the love of his God and his people.
Dear Saint and glorious Martyr,
who are so popular with lovers,
be kind to those whom we love
and to us.
Teach us to love unselfishly
and to find great joy in giving.
Enable all true lovers
to bring out the best in each other.
Let them love each other in God
and God in each other.
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
back to top | home