A Reflection for Valentine’s Day

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, which is named in memory of Saint Valentine, a third-century physician and priest, who is said to have secretly married couples prohibited from marrying under existing Roman law.

The emperor of Rome at that time, Claudius the Goth, was trying to raise a powerful army and thought single men would make better fighters, lacking any distracting concern for bride and hearth.

Eventually, Valentine was arrested, imprisoned, and beheaded on February 14th circa 269 CE. The legends of love that have flourished around his name would probably have amazed—and perhaps troubled—him.

In the Middle Ages, it was noticed that birds appeared to mate during the middle of February in the temperate zones of Europe, and this middle-of-the-month date was attached to the martyred Valentine with all the accoutrements of romance, including the ever-present lovebirds.

Much later, the profit-conscious postal service encouraged the sending of lovers’ invitations in mid-February. Hence, the romantic phrase, “Will you be my Valentine?” and the memory of the saint’s beheading were linked with romance.

Yes, the Middle Ages were strange times. But even the later Bard of Avon appears to have had a penchant for linking romance and murder.

The linkage appears to lack religious support down through the modern age. Many religious calendars omit any celebration of St. Valentine’s Day in mid-February. And if they do mention it, they mark it as a day when a third-century priest was martyred.

Perhaps a Valentine’s Day card to a loved-one ought to include a cross in place of any ribbon-linked lovebirds. Though in fairness to the saint, he did encourage the love of husband and wife.

Reference: Ruth Rejnis.
The Everything Saints Book.

Avon, MA. The Adams Media Corp. 2001.

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