St. Valentine of Rome, Hallmark, & Hershey (Patron Saint of the Guilt-Ridden and Forgetful)

valentine boxStep 1: get an old shoe box from your mother’s closet.

Step 2: cut a slit in the lid.

Step 3: cover the shoe box with alumnium foil, construction paper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, or the like.

Step 4: attach sequins, colored buttons, heart-shaped pieces of paper, or other decorative items.

Step 5: carefully address little paper cut-out cards to every student in your homeroom class. Be sure not to miss anyone!

Step 6: go to school the next day wishing you had thought to do “that” with your box and get “those” cards instead of the ones you got.

Ahhh, Valentine’s Day. Such a happy day with happy memories. And Cupids. And love birds. And hearts. And flowers. And chocolates…

…and imprisoned, beaten, beheaded, disembowled patron saints.

Though there is no doubt that St. Valentine of Rome existed, there are a great many myths surrounding his life and works. When it’s all boiled down, it seems that St. Valentine spent a good deal of his time getting under the skin of Emperor Claudius by illegally marrying Christian couples and coming to the aid of Christians who were imprisoned in valentine of rome

After being imprisoned himself, St. Valentine and the emperor developed a somewhat cordial relationship. But, when Valentine tried to convert Emperor Claudius to Christianity–well, that was the last straw. Claudius was infuriated and demanded that Valentine renounce his Christian faith or be beaten and beheaded. Of course, St. Valentine refused which is self-evident given that he is, after all, a saint. On February 14, somewhere between 269 and 280 AD, St. Valentine of Rome was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on the north of Rome.

Some myths tell that Valentine would secretly marry Christian couples so that husbands would not have to go to war. Others report that while imprisoned, he healed the blind daughter of one of his jailers, and that on the day of his execution, he sent her a note signed “Your Valentine.” Regardless of how much or how many of the myths are true, what is true is that St. Valentine’s contributions to humanity are far more significant than the contemporary holiday which bears his name.

I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore except for giving cards to my nieces. It’s not because of any religious or moral conviction. It’s certainly not some weird political conviction. No, I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because of what it is–a fake holiday ginned up by greeting card and candy companies and designed to guilt people (mostly men) into buying token signs of affection for their significant others. I don’t celebrate valentine candyValentine’s Day because our modern sensibilities (and I use that word loosely) place far too much emphasis on one day of the year when, in reality, if lovers truly are in love, February 14th is just another day to love each other.

Don’t worry, though, I’m not going on some silly campaign to ban or abolish Valentine’s Day. That’s not me either. I just think it’s important to understand who St. Valentine of Rome was, who he was not, and why his feast day should be celebrated in a a way more meaningful than overpriced flowers and chocolate. Honoring St. Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating the power of true love rather than placating subservient love with trinkets. That’s not who St. Valentine of Rome was and that is not how he should be remembered.

Happy SAINT Valentine’s Day!


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