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St. Valentine is not on the liturgical calendar this year. With the hundreds of new saints canonized since the beginning of St. John Paul II’s papacy, the saints must now “wait their turn” to be celebrated! Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day is still, annually, a celebration of love… And it is named after St. Valentine. So… we celebrate him here, and we give a little history of his life.

Fr. Valentine’s passion and his work embraced marriage in a culture that de-valued that commitment, and during a dictatorship that outlawed it. This firm stand landed him a martyr’s death. Far past his devotion to seeing couples blessed by marriage, much love was manifested in his own life.


Valentine was a priest in Rome, who—like so many others before and since—made some “ordinary” life decisions that became pivotal choices and dangerous moves. What priest hasn’t married couples? What priest hasn’t helped others in need, at times?

Emperor Claudius believed that unattached men made better soldiers because they did not have a wife or family to be concerned about should something happen to them in war. This did not stop St. Valentine. He continued to encourage couples to marry. He performed many ceremonies himself. In addition to this “crime”, he continued to help Christians who were being persecuted.

Although Valentine lived in 3rd century Rome, the sexual mores of his society were much like our modern permissive society. (It was the Old Testament King Solomon who said that there is “nothing new under the sun”. Our “modern” approaches and thinking may not be so innovative after all…)

With the act of marriage, itself, outlawed, Valentine was still determined to see the biblical mandate encouraged and the sacrament performed for the couples who came to him. His firm decision and his unwavering actions brought him into conflict with Emperor Claudius II—ultimately, to experience his cruelty.


One time when he was arrested, the judge brought his blind daughter to Valentine, to test his faith. He wanted to see if she would be healed. Valentine laid hands on her eyes and prayed, and she recovered. The entire household of Judge Asterius was then converted and baptized. They even destroyed their idols. As the story goes, even the Christian prisoners were freed.

Upon Valentine’s final arrest, torture, and beating with clubs—at Emperor Claudius’ direct order because Valentine would not bow to his idols—he knew execution was imminent. The last thing St. Valentine wrote was a note to the now-seeing daughter of Judge Asterius. He signed it, “from your Valentine.”


St. Valentine is most appropriately celebrated as the patron of expressions of “love”. There is no doubt his life was full of it: love, first of all, for his Lord, Jesus… and love for the judge, for his household, and for many others whom he helped and saved-- both physically and spiritually. Lastly, he expressed loving remembrance toward a young girl who saw the light of day when the Light of the world poured His healing power through St. Valentine’s hands.

She and other Christians would need encouragement in the midst of the raging persecutions that threatened their lives…and he focused on them as he, himself, faced death.

His thoughtful “love note” has continued to inspire many through the ages, and show how a simple, loving word can touch lives.

This love of his was “agape” love: unconditional and “unto death”, both in encouraging marital commitments, and in his own life lived and given in his bloody execution.


A church dedicated to his memory has been found in Roman catacombs, and the date “February 14th” was set as his feast day by Pope Gelasius in 496 A.D. His relics have been spread to Poland, France, Austria, Malta, Scotland, and Ireland.


St. Valentine’s feast day became a day to celebrate love and romance, and, even now, is a special time to send notes and flowers. Marriage proposals were often made on that day, and courting begun.

Such customs began in the Middle Ages, and flourished through many ages since, particularly in England and France. It was thought (and noticed) that birds often began to mate around the middle of February.

Consequently, not only flowers (especially roses) but birds were often seen decorating Valentine cards and notes. (…Hence, the term “love-birds” given to affectionate couples.)


St. Valentine is the patron saint of love and lovers, engaged couples, happy marriages, greetings, travelers, young people, fainting, epilepsy, and bee keepers.

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