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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Who Was Saint Valentine?

Who Was Saint Valentine?

From Anthony Navarra

Saint Valentine healing an epileptic, illustrated by Dr. František Ehrmann, circa 1899.
Saint Valentine healing an epileptic, illustrated by Dr. František Ehrmann, circa 1899.

Valentine’s Day comes around every February 14. On this day, in many countries, loved ones exchange cards, gifts, candy and flowers – all in the name of Saint Valentine. But who was he, and how is he connected to this day of romance? The answers seem to point, somewhat obscurely, to an early Christian martyr named Valentine (“Valentinus” in Latin).

Valentine, according to one legend, was a young Christian whom the Romans imprisoned for his faith. While in prison, he fell in love with a young lady who often visited him. Valentine was helping other Christian prisoners escape. When this was discovered, he was executed. Before his martyrdom, he wrote his beloved a letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” an expression we still use today.

Another legend suggests that Valentine was a third-century priest. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children, he outlawed marriage for all young men. Valentine thought this decree was unjust and secretly performed marriages for young couples who asked to be wed. When the emperor discovered this, he ordered Valentine’s death. He was executed on February 14, 270.

Whoever the original Saint Valentine was, these and other stories display his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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