The world celebrated Valentines day again earlier this month. People from all over the world exchanged flowers, chocolate, teddy bears, cards, and went on dates–all in the spirit of showing their affection or love for the object of their attentions. It’s become an annual tradition that the world has become quite obsessed over. What a lot of people may not realize that there is a deep religious significance that’s firmly rooted in Valentines Day.
Saint Valentine of Terni is a third century Roman saint who is usually commemorated on February 14th. Since the latter part of the middle ages, St. Valentine has always been firmly associated with the tradition of courtly love.
As records go, there isn’t anything that’s fully reliable about St. Valentine. What is known about him is the day of his commiseration, his name, and the idea that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. The Via Flaminia is quite close to the Ponte Milvio–north of Rome. There have been several inconsistencies about the records of St. Valentine so it is uncertain whether or not there is only one Saint Valentine or what has occurred is the conflation of two saints that share the name.
Despite this, stories of St. Valentines’ miracle is passed down and is quite beloved as one of the more ‘real’ accounts of miracles. It is said that Saint Valentine was once under house arrest and watched by a Judge of Asterius. They fell into a deep discussion regarding faith–something which Valentine was quite adamant about. Valentine discussed the validity of Jesus and the judge had declared a test for Valentine to prove that Jesus was indeed real and had worked miracles.
The judge had ordered his adopted daughter to be brought to them and Valentine was ordered to cure the child of her blindness. The deal was if Valentine were to be successful in curing the child, the judge would be therefore bound in a promise to do whatever thing that Valentine would ask for. Valentine placed his hands over the child’s eyes, prayed, and the child’s vision was restored. Humbled, the judge asked what Valentine wanted. Valentine asked that the judge destroy all the idols in his home, fast for three days, and then undergo baptism.
It is said that is was this act that led to the release of so many persecuted Christians that were previously imprisoned. While Valentine and others were released, Valentine himself was once again in hot water for trying to convince Emperor Claudius Gothicus to embrace Christianity. The enraged emperor demanded that Valentine renounce his faith or be subject to a beating with clubs and subsequently beheaded. Despite this, Valentine remained true to his faith and refused to denounce his religion and beliefs. As a consequence to this, Valentine was indeed executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269.
Much later, after his canonization, Saint Valentine was to be the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, love, plague, epilepsy, and beekeepers. Paintings, murals, and other depictions of Saint Valentine often portray him with birds, roses, or even with a crippled child.
So while much about the true facts about Saint Valentine remains a mystery, a part of him still remains alive each time February 14 rolls around. While not for the same reasons, the spirit of love remains the same.