Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Real Saint Valentine

In roaming the Internet for the history of Saint Valentine, I was amazed at how much hooey there is associated with Saint Valentine's Day. It seems people are more ready to believe the saint never existed or that this is just a nice "Christianized" version of a pagan holidy. What was most shocking is how the Catholic Church has relegated Saint Valentine and Saint Nicholas to "possibly" having existed and they have been taken out of the list of Saints recognized by the Catholic Church!

Still, some people have located the true story, or as true as we can get it these days, of Saint Valentine and this site truly has a wonderful way of wording the story. It sounds almost verbatim from the teaching of my priest.

God Bless you Saint Valentine!
History tends to be confusing and vague, but despite several different possibilities for his identity, it is believed that the actual Valentine who inspired this holiday was a priest during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius II.

Valentine, or Valentinus is credited, along with St Marius and his family, with assisting the Christian martyrs during their persecution by Claudius. At that time it was a crime to provide aid and comfort to Christians. Claudius had also issued an edict forbidding marriage. He believed married men made poor soldiers because they grew attached to their families. Therefore, to guarantee a steady supply of soldiers for his empire, Claudius abolished marriage and cancelled all engagements.

Valentine invited young lovers to come to him in secret, where he joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of this "friend of lovers," and had Valentine brought before him. The emperor, impressed with the young priest's dignity and conviction, attempted to convert him to the Roman gods to save him from otherwise certain execution. Valentine refused to renounce Christianity and instead, attempted to convert the emperor, thereby signing his death warrant.

Thrown into a dungeon, and tended by a jailer named Asterius, the young priest had only the barest necessities of life. His one comfort while awaiting execution was his friendship with Asterius' blind daughter. She befriended the kindly priest by bringing him food and delivering messages for him.

In the last days of his life, Valentine, through his deep and abiding faith, miraculously restored the sight of the jailer's daughter. He also converted Asterius and his daughter to Christianity, an act which would result in their eventual execution by Claudius.

On the eve of his execution the priest wrote a farewell message to the girl and signed it "From Your Valentine," a phrase that would live on long after its author died. He was beaten and beheaded on February 14th, 273 AD/CE, outside the Flaminian Gate (now the Porta del Popolo but known for a time as the Porta Valentini) in Rome. According to legend, a pink almond tree, a symbol of abiding love, blossomed near his grave (the girl planted it there by his grave other sources say).

In the 4th century Pope Julius I built a church in honor of Valentine. In the 7th century Pope Honorius I restored it and it became a very popular pilgrimage site.

The valentine has become the universal symbol of friendship and affection shared each anniversary of the priest's execution -- Valentine's Day. Valentine has also become the Patron of those couples who are engaged to be married.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.(John 15.13)

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