Today Americans mark “Valentine’s Day” — a day for lovers throughout the land. At one point, however, February 14 was celebrated at St. Valentine’s Day.
Who was the person who inspired a day that is a favorite of card makers, florists, jewelers, and candy companies? When you’ve got a question about saints, you logically turn to Catholic websites like Catholic Online — whose website posting on St. Valentine, ironically, features a 1-800flowers.com banner ad that says “Wow her this Valentine’s.”
According to the website, nobody knows for sure who St. Valentine was, or even how many Valentines there were. The authorities believe there was at least one such person, however, because archaeologists have uncovered an ancient church and catacomb dedicated to him. The prevailing view seems to be that he was a Roman priest named Valentinus who was martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth; February the 14th was identified as the official date of his martyrdom by papal decree in 496 A.D.
Valentinus is said to have helped persecuted Christians, married couples in outlawed Christian ceremonies, and refused to renounce his faith when he was caught. Like most early saints, he met a grisly end — he was beaten and stoned, then beheaded. Before that happened, however, he is supposed to have cured his jailer’s daughter of blindness and then sent her a note saying “from your Valentine.”
St. Valentine is the patron saint of love, lovers, engaged couples, and happy marriages — and also of epilepsy, plague, bee keepers, fainting, travelers, and young people. He apparently was a busy guy with broad-ranging interests before he lost his head.