Sunday, February 14, 2016

St. Valentine 269 A.D.

Today is February 14th, and that means that it is Valentine's Day. Today men and women will express their love for each other by gifting flowers, heart-shaped boxes of assorted chocolates, gold and other jewelry, and wine and dine themselves.  But, what is the real history of the day named after a Catholic saint martyred in 269 A.D.?

In Church history there has been at least 3 saints named Valentine, all of them martyrs. One named Valentinus was a bishop in Rome around 269 A.D.

It was under the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, (also known as Claudius the Cruel, for reasons we will soon learn) that St. Valentinus was martyred. Claudius II needing to maintain a strong army for the empire was having trouble finding new soldiers. He believed this was because many young men had formed strong attachments to their wives and families. To solve the problem, Claudius II banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentinus, recognizing the injustice in this defied the emperor. He continued to perform marriages in secret.

When Claudius II found this out he became outraged. He ordered Valentinus arrested and sentenced to death. He was brought before Rome's prefect and beaten with clubs before being beheaded. According to legend, Valentinus left a note for the jailor's daughter who he befriended that read "from your Valentine".

Valentinus was later declared a saint for his service by the Catholic Church.

The popular customs associated with modern Valentine's Day can be traced back to England and France during the Middle Ages, when it was tradition that on the 14 February, the middle of the month birds began to pair in anticipation of Spring and mating time. Chaucer makes note of this in Parliament of Foules:

 "For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate."

For this reason, it was believed that 14 February was set aside as day especially consecrated for lovers. It was customary for lovers to send letters and exchange tokens of affection for one another.

This tradition continues to this day.

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