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February 14 marks the popular holiday of Valentine’s Day, a day to show your love to someone special in your life.
The reason it is called Valentine’s Day is because the Church used to celebrate the life of St. Valentine on this date.
Who was St. Valentine?
February 14 honors the memory of St. Valentine of Rome, a priest who was martyred on this day in the year 270.
A brief biography of St. Valentine is featured in Butler’s Lives of the Saints.
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with Saint Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome; who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards to be beheaded, which was executed on the 14th of February, about the year 270.
Generally speaking, this is most of what we know about the real St. Valentine with any certainty. After his death many legends were composed about him. One of the earliest legends about his life is featured in the Golden Legend.
When St. Valentine was brought in a house in prison, then he prayed to God, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, very God, which art very light, illumine this house in such wise that they that dwell therein may know you to be very God.” And the provost said: “I marvel that you say that your God is very light, and nevertheless, if he may make my daughter to hear and see, which long time hath been blind, I shall do all that you command me, and shall believe in your God.” St. Valentine put him in prayers, and by his prayers the daughter of the provost received again her sight, and all they of the the house were converted. After, the emperor cut off the head of St. Valentine, the year of our Lord two hundred and eighty.
It wasn’t until much later that St. Valentine was associated with lovers, and the invention of the modern-day celebration of Valentine’s Day. Even the story of St. Valentine performing marriages comes at a later date.
Regardless of these later additions to this story, the early Christians venerated St. Valentine of Rome as a holy martyr, who stayed faithful to Christ despite persecution.