October 26, 2020

St. Valentine


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There are a number of stories concerning who was St. Valentine but most have a common thread – Rome and Claudius II.

In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno. Juno was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast
of Lupercalia.

The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate. However, one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome.

Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples. 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 February 14, about the year 270. Claudius had taken a liking to Valentine until he tried to convert the Emperor
to Christianity!

Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honour of
his martyrdom.

The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. Alongside a woodcut portrait of a man called Valentinus was a text stating he was a priest caught marrying Christian couples during the reign of Claudius II.

Legend has it that while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it, “From your Valentine.”

Valentinus was buried at the Via Flaminia north of Rome.

The Saint Valentine that appears in various martyrologies in connection with Feb 14 is described either as:

· A priest in Rome

· A bishop of Interamna
(modern Terni)

· A martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

English eighteenth century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, suggested that Valentine’s Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia. This idea has lately been contested by Professor Jack Oruch of the University of Kansas. It is a fact that many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic courtly love.

Chaucer wrote:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

Translation: “For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

The modern cliché Valentine’s Day poem can be found in the collection of English nursery rhymes Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784):

The rose is red, the violet’s blue

The honey’s sweet, and so are you

Thou are my love and I am thine

I drew thee to my Valentine

The lot was cast and then I drew

And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

Valentine’s Day is now big business. The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the USA. The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine’s Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010.

In most Islamic countries Valentine’s Day is banned. And I thought love broke down all barriers but then the Christian philosophy is based on love.

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