Will the real St. Valentine please step up?

| Father Michael Van Sloun | February 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

Charity is etched onto a heart with flames at Holy Spirit in Two Harbors. Photo by Father Michael VanSloun

Feb. 14 is St. Valentine’s Day, but which St. Valentine is commemorated on that day?

Various authorities list as many as 10 different saints all with the name “Valentine,” including a fifth century missionary bishop who died in 440 AD, and a ninth century pope whose pontificate lasted only 40 days before he died in 827 AD.

Most believe that the original St. Valentine lived during the third century. Though historical records are sketchy, there are three popular explanations.

The first is that St. Valentine was a priest in Rome, and that during a persecution under the Roman emperor Claudius II, Valentine was beaten with clubs, beheaded and buried on Feb. 14, 269, along the Flaminian Way two miles outside of Rome.

According to another account, St. Valentine was a bishop of Interamna or Terni which is located about 60 miles from Rome, and that the prefect of Terni ordered that he be tortured by scourging, after which he may have been sent to Rome where he was beheaded along the Flaminian Way on Feb. 14, 270.

This is an amazing coincidence: both had the same name, died in the same manner, in the same area, and on the same day, only one year apart.

Did the priest in Rome become the bishop of Terni? This has led a number of scholars to conclude that these two St. Valentines are one and the same.

The ‘love connection’

The date of St. Valentine’s feast, Feb. 14, is associated with a number of things that have a “love connection.” St. Valentine had a deep love for God and neighbor, which serves as a reminder of how important it is to show kindness and love to others.

During medieval times, it was thought that Feb. 14 was the beginning of the time of year when birds begin to pair off and choose their mates. That made people think about how young people meet  and fall in love, which  is the origin of the term “love birds.”

This also made Feb. 14 a special day to write notes, cards and letters or send gifts to the person who is so dearly loved, one’s “Valentine.”

Feb. 14 is also associated with the ancient pagan festival of Lupercalia, the festival of lovers, which dates back to the fourth century B.C. Lupercalia was held in mid-February to honor the Roman god Lupercus, a fertility god.

As part of the celebration, the names of young women were placed in a box and drawn by young men, who then paired off as dance partners and oftentimes as sexual partners.

Centuries later, Christians tried to correct this morally offensive practice with the introduction of a purity rite. As a substitute, a box was passed with the names of saints, and the person was supposed to love the saint that was drawn.

The symbols for St. Valentine are a heart, birds and roses. St. Valentine is the patron saint of greetings, love, lovers, young people, engaged couples and happy marriages.

Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.

Upcoming Marriage events

Marriage enrichment: Feb. 12, 5:30 p.m., Oak Marsh Country Club, Oakdale. Sponsored by St Ambrose Church, Woodbury. Register before Feb. 7 at http://www.SaintAmbroseofWoodbury.org

Cana dinner: Feb. 19, Delano Catholic Community, 401 River St. N., Delano. Call (763) 972-2077 before Feb. 5 to register.

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Category: The Lesson Plan