Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Valentine, Martyr, d.c. 269
There is some confusion about the life of Valentine. There may have been two Valentines, one a priest and physician in Rome, the second the bishop of Interamna, a town about sixty miles from Rome. Many scholars believe that these were one and the same person.
Valentine, the priest, cared for Christians who were being persecuted under Claudius II. Arrested for this, he was sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome who tried to persuade Valentine to renounce his faith. The prefect failed in his efforts, and he ordered Valentine to be beheaded. The execution took place on February 14, 269. He was buried on the Flaminian Way in Rome where a church was erected in his honor and a gate, the Porta Valentini (now known as the Porta del Popolo) was named for him.
Valentine, the bishop, was also beheaded and buried on the Flaminian Way though he is said to have been executed in Interamna where a great devotion to the saint built up immediately. Tradition has it that he also was killed on February 14, however the year of his death is put in 273. It is entirely possible that Valentine, the bishop, was brought to Rome where he was put to death, thus, given our inexact knowledge of early dates, it is likely that Valentine, the priest, and Valentine, the bishop, are the same person.
The custom for young men and women to choose each other as Valentines on this day is based on the popular medieval belief, recorded in literature as early as Chaucer that birds began to pair on this day. Early references to the custom were contained in a letter written in 1477 by Elizabeth Drews to a prospective bridegroom concerning her marriageable daughter, Margery, and Margery’s letter which refers to him as "...my right well beloved Valentine."
Valentine's message today: Since we know that “God is love,” it seems appropriate that we should associate one of God’s saints with love. We should remember, however, that God does not want us just to love those who are near to us. Jesus told us that we must love our enemies as well.