Although the modern-day Valentine’s Day has become heavily commercialized, St. Valentine’s Day does have at it’s roots a real person, practicing and living his faith.
Not much is known about St. Valentinus. In fact, he might have been two different people with the same name living in third century Italy. One account depicts Valentinus as a priest in Rome and the other lists him as a bishop from central Italy.
During that time, the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius the Cruel who was having trouble maintaining the size of his army. He believed it was due to many young married men worrying about the well-being of their wives and families should they be killed in battle. So Claudius outlawed marriage for young people.
Valentinus was busy promoting monogamous life-long marriages and was secretly conducting marriage ceremonies for the young people in love. The Romans caught Valentinus who refused to give up his faith. The Romans sentenced him to a three-part execution; first he would be beaten with clubs, then stoned, then beheaded. One of his judges, Asterius, had a deaf and blind daughter. Before his death on February 14th, 269 AD, Valentinus cured the little girl and left her a note signed, “From your Valentine.” In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius I canonized St. Valentine and declared February 14th his feast day.
In 1835, a Carmelite Friar named Father John Spratt, a servant of Dublin’s poor, visited Rome. Pope Gregory XVI was a fan of his and gave him custody of St. Valentine’s relics. Father Spratt returned to Dublin with several body parts and a small vessel of St. Valentine’s blood and placed them at White Friar Street Church, where they remain today.
St. Valentine is the protector of lovers, the betrothed, and epileptics. He also can be invoked for stomach ailments. Today, Valentine’s Day is remembered with acts of love and kindness and gifts of cards, candy, and flowers.
Happy Valentine ’s Day!