Beliefnet
O Me of Little Faith

In honor of today, here’s a little background information about Valentine’s Day from my upcoming book, Pocket Guide to Sainthood. It releases this summer from Jossey-Bass, and conveniently, it contains a little section about the original St. Valentine. Enjoy.

St. Valentine
Rome (3rd century)
Feast day: February 14

So here’s the deal. There were at least three Valentines who were martyred in ancient Rome — one a Roman priest, the second a bishop of Terni, the last an African martyr — and all three share a feast day on February 14. Neither was connected in any way to love, hearts, chocolate, roses, fat arrow-wielding baby angels, the color red, or anything else even remotely connected with the holiday. What we do know is that medieval society used to think that birds mated around February 14, and Geoffrey Chaucer gave this Valentine’s Day tradition a shout-out in his 14th century poem Parliament of Foules.

At some point, the feast day for the martyrs named Valentine became associated with romance and love letters and matchmaking. But we don’t know why, or how, and anyone telling you otherwise is just trying to get you to buy chocolate.

Be Impressed Because: Prior to his martyrdom, the priest Valentine healed the blind daughter of his jailer, refusing to let such annoyances as “prison” or “imminent death” keep him from miraculous deeds.

Random Fact: The relics of St. Valentine are said to reside at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin. And at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. And at a side altar in the Birmingham Oratory in the UK. And at a church in Glasgow. And at a reliquary in a French commune. So perhaps there weren’t three Valentines, but five. Or maybe that first sentence should just read “the alleged relics of St. Valentine…”

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Enjoy the day, kids. In honor of St. Valentine, show someone you love them by healing their jailer’s blind daughter.

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