St. Valentine

About Saint Valentine

Image of a Stained glass window depicting Saint Valentine blessing a man and a woman
Stained glass window depicting Saint Valentine blessing a man and a woman

Heart-shaped cards, chocolates, roses, and romance. All these things capture the essence of the popular romantic holiday Valentine’s Day. Showing love for your significant other is really what this entire holiday is for, right? Or perhaps that is not the case. After all, the origin of this holiday doesn’t spark from romantic love at all, but more of a platonic sacrificial love as displayed by the most honored Saint Valentine.

In the 268 AD the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius II, or Claudius Gothicus. Claudius was generally tolerant of most religious policies, but persecuted the Catholic Church. He passed an edict forbidding the young to marry, based off of the belief that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers, who were constantly worried for the health and well-being of their family in the soldier’s absence, or what would happen to the family in the event of the soldier’s death. Polygamy was also more popular during this time, though much against the Christian teachings of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Despite the restricting edict, marriage was the special mission of St. Valentine. He secretly married young lovers in the Catholic Church, going against Roman law to secure the bonds of love between young couples. However, the Roman authorities eventually captured and imprisoned him. After imprisonment and grueling torture, St. Valentine was put before the Roman law for his acts of sealing love in the Catholic Church against the laws of the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Asterius, one of Valentine’s jailers, was the father of a young blind girl. A Roman put up to judge Valentine, he was clearly not a man of faith, but his concern and desperation for his daughter’s health led him to give Valentine the chance to heal his daughter during Valentine’s imprisonment. Valentine prayed to God and miraculously healed Asterius’ daughter of her blindness. Witnessing this astounding deed of healing led to Asterius’ conversion to Christianity. Shortly thereafter in 269 AD, Valentine was condemned to a three-part execution of beating, stoning, and beheading. Popular tradition holds that the very last words of this man of love were written to the once-blind daughter of the very jailer he converted, Asterius. He signed the note he sent her “from your Valentine”, and was led off to meet his painful end.

How he signed his final note inspired the romantic messages exchanged on Valentine’s day and gives a deeper meaning to the commonplace phrase of the holiday, “Will you be my Valentine?”. The name of Valentine shows a deeper love than many romantic relationships and a willingness to sacrifice your life for your faith and loved ones. It shows a deep commitment and love that should be valued and cherished in all forms in which it is found. We celebrate his feast day, St. Valentine’s Day, on the 14th of February, and he is honored as the patron saint of lovers. St. Valentine celebrated love in all of its forms, and inspired the romantic holiday of love today.

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More About Saint Valentine

Holy card of St. Valentine
Holy card of St. Valentine

St. Valentine’s Day is perhaps one of the most celebrated saint days in America; however, the religious understanding of the day has been lost amid the flurry of chocolates, hearts, and jewelry. In taking a look at who St. Valentine was, as well as the reason he has been honored as a saint since the 3rd century, the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day can be uncovered and observed with reverence.

Much of the details of St. Valentine’s life have been lost to time. What remains, though, is the story of a man whose love for Christ directed his life, and ultimately led him to a martyr’s death. St. Valentine was a Roman priest who ministered to the Christians persecuted under the reign of Claudius II. Because St. Valentine disagreed with the war Rome was engaged in, he took to marrying engaged Christian couples, which meant the men were spared being enlisted in the Roman army, which only took single men. St. Valentine’s devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ drove him to aid the persecuted Christians in any way he could.

Icon depicting St. Valentine
Icon depicting St. Valentine

Due to the fact that St. Valentine was a priest, and particularly because he helped the Christians who were oppressed under the rule of Claudius II, he was arrested by the Roman officials. At first, Claudius II took a liking to St. Valentine due to his gentle nature; however, when St. Valentine attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity, he was ordered to be put to death. While in jail awaiting his martyrdom, St. Valentine restored the sight of the jailer’s blind daughter. On the night before he was to be put to death, he wrote a farewell letter to the girl, signing it “From Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine was beaten with clubs, then stoned, and when these methods failed to kill him, he was beheaded. The date of his death was February 14, 269 or 270. He was buried along the Flaminian Way. Most of his relics currently reside at the Whitefriar Church in Dublin, Ireland. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared that February 14 would be St. Valentine’s feast day, in honor of his martyrdom. In recent years, archaeologists have uncovered a Roman catacomb and ancient church bearing the name of St. Valentine.

Religious Medal featuring Saint Valentine
Religious Medal featuring Saint Valentine

Despite the stories of St. Valentine marrying young couples, as well as the letter he wrote to the jailer’s daughter, the origin of his association with love and marriage is somewhat clouded. One theory lies in the pagan tradition of men and women seeking each other out for inappropriate relationships on the feast day of a certain pagan goddess. Since this day was celebrated on February 15, Christians living after the time of St. Valentine attempted to redirect the pagans’ interest in love and relationships to the holy example which could be found in the life of St. Valentine, who was celebrated on February 14. Another theory is similar, claiming that February 14 is the date on which birds choose their mates. As a result, St. Valentine is often pictured with birds, particularly lovebirds. This tradition is an attempt made by Christians to turn the eyes of the world toward the Godly representation of love as shown by the life of St. Valentine, in which he laid down his life for love of God, becoming a martyr.

Patronage of St. Valentine

St. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers, engaged couples, those with epilepsy, happy marriages, love, travellers, and young people.

St. Valentine in Art

St. Valentine is most often pictured in red clothes holding a palm branch – both of which are symbols of martyrdom. At other times, he is wearing the clerics of a priest. He sometimes carries a small cross or book, representing the Christian faith that he preached. In addition, he may be shown with birds near him (lovebirds), or in the act of healing the sight of the jailer’s daughter.

Prayers of St. Valentine

Holy Card image of St Valentine with red clak and palm branches, symbols of his martyrdom
Holy Card image of St Valentine with red clak and palm branches, symbols of his martyrdom

Prayer to St. Valentine

Pray, then, O holy Martyr, for the Faithful, who are so persevering in celebrating thy memory. The day of Judgment will reveal to us all thy glorious merits. Oh! intercede for us, that we may then be made thy companions at the right hand of the Great Judge, and be united with thee eternally in heaven.

Antiphon: This Saint fought, even unto death, for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was set upon a firm rock.

Let us pray:

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who solemnize the festival of blessed Valentine, Thy Martyr, may, by his intercession, be delivered from all the evils that threaten us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer to St. Valentine

Patron of Sweethearts, Young People, Love & Happy Marriages

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. Amen.

The Prayer of St. Valentine

Dear Lord, who art high in the Heavens,
Giver of Love and Passion,
And He who strings the heart’s cords,
Lead the Lovers this day, February ten plus four.

The day during the month of two,
When the date is the perfect number of God
Greater two souls and two hearts.

Some Loves are fleeting ,
But that which is built on you will never fail.
So guide the Lovers to know what is to be.

Your truths the Lovers’ mouths should speak,
For Your truth is that which is honest to the heart.
Only this, then, should pass over the red lips of the Lovers.

Your art, the Lovers simply a medium.
It is only with True Hearts that You can create a Masterpiece,
So let the Lovers remember that their Soul’s Desire
Is the one for which You light their Fire.

And let it be You who creates the Art of the Lovers;
The art of two into one.

Amen.

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