by Nadia Ramoutar MMM Communications Coordinator 14.02.2023
The 14th February, St Valentine’s Day seems to have become some kind of commercial fiasco of chocolates, gifts and overpriced cards in much of the world. In some places, children give all the other children in their class valentine cards. Some people think of it now as a romantic holiday between people in relationship. Some people dread the day altogether and become Valentine Grinches like their cousins the Christmas Grinches. It does seem that whatever way we look at it, St Valentine’s Day does not really seem to be about the Saint at all anymore. A closer look at the origins of the holiday may explain why this is. For one thing, there may not even be only one St Valentine, as there are in fact several of them – and a Pope!
The original St Valentine is noted as a real man who died about 270 AD. His true identity however is still in question and why he became a saint. There are later accounts of the courageous acts of Valentine being a temple priest who defied Roman rule to marry couples in love. At the time, it was documented that single soldiers were better fighters so young men were not allowed to marry. This Valentine was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II for his romantic gesture.
There was also claims that Valentine was the Bishop of Terni who also continued to marry lovers also martyred by Claudius I. So it is not clear if this is the same person or two different Valentines. There is enough confusion here that St Valentine’s true identity is a mystery still though his name remains on the list of officially recognized saints. There are actually dozens of St Valentines on the Saint’s roster. As recently as 1988, when he was canonized, we have another one. St Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Spaniard of the Dominican order who travelled to Vietnam where he served as Bishop until he was beheaded in 1861. One thing for certain is that it doesn’t appear like the St Valentines had an easy path. Little is known about Pope Valentine except that he only served for about 40 days. So they are not a particularly lucky bunch either.
The reason for the date of the 14th February is also a mystery shrouded in confusion. Some believe it was to replace a pagan fertility holiday, others think it was the birthdate of one of the St Valentines. Somehow between Christmas and Easter, St Valentine’s Day falls to bless the loving people of the world.
Maybe the holiday of love being confusing in its origins is only fitting for a holiday of a state of being that, for some people, is confusing and shrouded in mystery. What might be an option for us now, is to see every day as a celebration of love. We can eat what we love, spend time doing what we love, go where we love and invest what we love with our time and effort. Why should love only be celebrated one day a year? Imagine living in a world where love is valued daily globally? What a difference could this make? If people valued love as much as money or possessions? It seems with so many St Valentines and so many stories of their valiant efforts (and quite a few beheadings!) that their sacrifice should not be in vain.
Here’s to celebrating love every day.