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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saint Valentine - February 14

Saint Valentine
February 14

There are three different Saint Valentines, all martyred. The one most noted was a priest in Rome arrested during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, for marrying young couples and helping Christians at a time when Christianity was highly unpopular. Asked to renounce his faith or be tortured, Saint Valentine refused to reject Jesus, was beaten with clubs and beheaded February 14th around 270.

His remains were buried on the Flaminian Way a principal Roman road just outside the Gate of Saint Valentine, now known as Porta del Popolo. After his burial, his body was exhumed, and a relic of his skull placed in the high altar in the Church at Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Every year on the 14th of February the relic is brought out and crowned with roses.

How Valentine’s Day went from being about a martyr who would rather die then renounce his faith to hearts, flowers, chocolates and Hallmark Cards is not completely clear. Here are three possibilities.

Alban Butler and Francis Douce suggest that Valentine’s Day might have been an attempt to replace the ancient Pagan holiday, Lupercalia, a Roman festival where two male youths dressed in animal skin ran through the city slapping people with goat skin to secure fertility and ward off evil, celebrated February 15, with a Christian holiday. Interesting idea for a Hallmark Card.

Or maybe it was Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem "Parliament of Fowls," written in 1383, this was the first recorded account referring to Valentine's Day. The poem, written in Old English, was quite foreign to me. But I did find a short synopsis that goes something like this, the narrator dreams that he is passing through a beautiful scene in the “dark temple of Venus” when a large flock of birds gatherers to choose mates. The birds have a “Parliamentary,” hence the title, debate while three male eagles try and seduce a female bird. In the end the eagles win the female and the dream ends welcoming spring. A bit of a leap, but Hallmark might make that into a card.

A third possibility brings us back to the martyr, Saint Valentine. Tradition holds that during his captivity he befriended the jailers daughter, Julia who had been blind since birth. He taught her arithmetic, about God, and how to pray. From Saint Valentine's witness, Julia converts to Christianity and is immediately cured of her blindness.  The day before Saint Valentine was beheaded, he wrote a note to Julia urging her to stay close to God and signed it, “From your Valentine.” Now that example would make a touching Hallmark card.

Apostleship of Prayer
Fr. James Kubicki, S.J.
A Love Greater Than Death

For devotional gifts related to the Catholic Faith 

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