Valentine's Day is celebrated every year on February 14. Across the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine.
The history of Valentine's Day and the story of its patron saint-is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
Valentine was killed for believing in Christ
The legend has it that Valentine was a Roman priest who was under house arrest of Judge Asterius and talked to him about his faith and validity of Jesus. The judge put him to a test and said that if he restores the eyesight of his adopted blind daughter, then he would do whatever he asked. Valentine laid his hands on her eyes and the girl's vision was restored. Humbled, the judge obeyed Valentine's orders which included breaking all the idols around his house, keeping a three-day fast and undergoing baptism. He also freed all the Christian inmates under his authority.
As Valentine continued to preach, he was sent to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II). When he tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity, Claudius refused and commanded him to either give up his faith or be beheaded. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and as a result, he was executed on February 14, 269.
On the day of his execution he left the girl he treated a note that was signed, "Your Valentine". This legend hints at the origin of Valentine's Day cards.
Valentine was killed for helping couples wed secretly
An account from 1493 describes Saint Valentine as a Roman priest who was sentenced by Emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. The emperor had banned marriages but he used to secretly get couples married so that the husbands wouldn't have to go to war. When the emperor found out, he was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.
Historians believe that there is a possibility that the stories of the two Valentines, executed under Claudius, have been combined, and that Saint Valentine is an amalgam of both.
Valentine was a saint who suffered in Roman province of Africa
In connection with February 14, another legend is that Valentine was a saint who suffered on February 14 with a number of companions in the Roman province of Africa.
Another account is from the official biography of the Diocese of Terni that Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna, Italy, and while on a temporary stay in Rome he was imprisoned, tortured, and martyred there on February 14.
As little is reliably known of him, the Catholic Church removed his name from the General Roman Calendar. The Roman Catholic Church, however, continues to recognise him as a saint in the Roman Martyrology.
Happy Valentine's Day!