How did St. Valentine become associated with candy, hearts, flowers and yes even love? Well, looking at the history, let’s see if we can come to a conclusion about this day!
The history of St. Valentine’s Day and the story of the patron saint are not totally clear. Yet it seems February is the month attributed to celebrating love and romance. This was thought to have originated with a very old tradition from a Roman festival called Lupercalia celebrated in the middle of February indicating the start of springtime. Pope Gelasius abolished this festival and proclaimed February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, thus establishing this particular feast day on the Catholic Calendar of Saints.
It was Chaucer, a poet from the middle ages, who first connected St. Valentine with romantic love.
So who was St. Valentine? We know there were actually three martyred St. Valentines. It is thought that St. Valentine’s Day is the feast day commemorating the death of a Roman priest in the middle of February who was known to have performed Christian marriages in secret most associated with the Valentine’s Day we celebrate today!
The legend surrounding him comes from the story about a Roman priest named Valentine, who during the time when an emperor named Claudius issued an edict prohibiting marriages of young people, was furtively performing Christian marriages. Emperor Claudius came to the conclusion that unmarried soldiers were better fighters than married soldiers. He thought that they would be more focused on fighting and less concerned with wives and families being left alone, should they die.
St. Valentine thought this was unfair. He felt Christian marriages were important in the Catholic Church. Therefore, St. Valentine performed secret Christian marriages because of Claudius’ edict. Eventually, St. Valentine was caught and imprisoned. One of his captors was a man named Asterius who had a daughter who was blind. Valentine prayed with Asterius and healed the girl of her blindness which caused Asterius to later become a Christian.
In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced by Claudius to a three part execution, consisting of a beating, stoning and beheading. According to legend, one of the last words Valentine wrote was to Asterius’ daughter which inspired today’s romantic signature: “from your Valentine.”
Throughout the world, greeting card companies certainly appreciate Valentine’s Day since it is the second highest day behind Christmas for the sale of greeting cards. It is estimated 150 million cards with expressions of love are sent annually.
Candy and flowers and marriage proposals bump up on Valentine’s Day as well.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that love is one of the most important messages in the Bible so having a day designated prior to Lent specifically to acknowledge the importance of love seems worthwhile. I think St. Valentine himself would approve knowing he is associated with one of the most important messages in the Bible.
Within Christian culture, as in many other religious traditions, love has its origin as a primal quality of God and so is co-eternal with Him. (Brian Goodwin, Professor of Biology at Schumacher College)
A.H. Whitehead, a mathematic philosopher, came to the conclusion in his classic, “Process and Reality” that a radical appraisal of what we call reality suggests a world in which love exists is something real.
Certain words appear in the Bible more than others, depending on the version you are using. The word “love” appears over 300 times in the Bible. The command to “love one another” appears eleven times in the Bible; all in the New Testament. Jesus said it three times. Twice in John 13:34. One of the most important messages is this one, “For God so loved the world, He sent his only Son, Jesus.”
Thank you to St. Valentine for reminding us that love is the cornerstone of all of our relationships. Happy St. Valentine’s Day to all!
Copyright 2019 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh