St. Valentine: More than a Holiday
By Luke Luedy
Whether you were walking down the grocery aisle or listening to the radio going to work, some things may have been jumping out at you. A sudden fascination with the colors pink and red. An abundance of hearts. Cards at low prices. Chocolates galore.
Evidently, one thing was clear: love was in the air.
Or at least, the commercialized version of it.
Though that may sound cynical, our modern society dictates that such sightings can only mean one thing: Valentine’s Day. It occurred just a few days ago, on February 14th. The modern equivalent of the holiday equates to showing the person you love care and affection. Flowers, boxes of chocolate, and cards are usually involved in this showcase of love.
As with countless aspects of Western culture and society, its roots can be traced back to Christianity. Valentine’s Day was named after a Christian saint, St. Valentine. However, love isn’t the only thing Valentine is a patron saint of, as he additionally represents fainting, epilepsy, mental illnesses, and even beekeepers.
What’s even more surprising is the fact that there may not have been just one St. Valentine, but multiple.
This may be due to the fact that the name Valentine was common during the early centuries. The word roughly means strength in Latin. Additionally, historical records were sparse at the time, so the exact specifications of Valentine’s life – or even lives – are largely unknown.
Still, most Christian subsets have reached a general consensus on some definite information. Valentine was an actual person, born sometime around the start of the third century. At the end of his life, Valentine was martyred and executed. Such ramifications have narrowed down the number of Valentines eligible for sainthood down to two.
Here’s a quick rundown on how each Valentine’s life fared.
The first Valentine, this one located around Rome, was a priest. According to an article on Valentine by the Catholic Education Resource Center, a website specializing in showcasing Catholicism, Christian persecution was rampant. The current Roman emperor, Claudius Gothicus, refused to allow Christianity to exist in his nation, and thus persecuted anyone who identified with it.
Valentine attempted to comfort and save these individuals from persecution. Some stories, such as one detailed by another religious website, Catholic Online, even proclaim that Valentine married Christian couples in secret. Love’s influence over the modern holiday can clearly be seen here.
Unfortunately, Claudius eventually did capture Valentine, primarily for Valentine converting the populace to Christianity. Claudius’ men imprisoned and routinely beat Valentine with heavy clubs. Valentine, with his life in imminent danger, was demanded to renounce his faith. Refusing the emperor’s demand, Valentine was decapitated shortly thereafter.
Another Valentine is thought to be a bishop from Terni, an area roughly 60 miles from Rome. For the most part, this Valentine’s life is largely identical to the first’s.
However, one notable difference is a supposed interaction he had with a Roman judge, Judge Asterius. The judge, who placed Valentine under house arrest due to the latter’s Christian faith, gave Valentine a lifeline. If Valentine could somehow cure his daughter’s blindness, Asterius would undertake any request Valentine asked of him. Valentine allegedly did so and regained freedom.
Claudius eventually captured this Valentine too. Valentine underwent torture and imprisonment yet was unyielding in his devotion to God. And like the first potential Valentine, the bishop from Terni was decapitated.
The origins of the word “Valentine” in a romantic sense may originate with this Valentine and in an unlikely manner. Legends surrounding the saint state that he healed his jailer’s blind daughter, similar to Asterius’. Later, he left the girl a letter on the very day of his execution, signed with the words “Your Valentine.”
No Limits to Love
While those two Valentines differ in their life stories, there are some common similarities among them.
Both accounts detail individuals who were unwavering in their faith and were willing to lay down their lives for it. The two Valentines also put more love into others than themselves, as they assisted those condemned for their beliefs and healed the sick. Even their burial places are alike, as both were laid to rest on the Flaminian Way, an ancient Roman road.
Regardless of the accuracy of some accounts surrounding Valentine, or even which one is the true saint, the message surrounding his life is undeniably important.
Love cannot be contained.
Not by any individual, not by any group, society, or even nation.
Valentine’s life proves that love, whether it be for someone close or for one’s religion, can withstand anything. Prejudice, clubbing, even death, can barely put a dent in its influence.
In short, though we won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day until next year, don’t let your love be contained. In a world growing increasingly more turbulent and fractured, the last thing we need is to suppress our emotions.
Maybe the time has passed to give someone a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers, but that’s not all love is. Supporting them in times of need, seeing how they are, anything to show your affection is a worthwhile endeavor.
While it may sound cliché, love is what makes the world go round.
Now is definitely a time in which we’re all in dire need of it.