What do these things have in common? How do they relate to one another? Is a good marriage like a productive bee hive, full of sweetness and potential pain?
So who was this saint of man? The Catholic Church sainted three martyrs with the name Valentine over the last two thousand years.
One was a priest in Rome who was imprisoned and later beheaded on February 14 by Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus (aka Claudius II,) who was well known for defeating the Goths in the battle of Naissus. While the Emperors short reign, 268 to 270, was spent largely in battle away from Rome, he apparently also found time to persecute Christians when he was in town.
Another was the Bishop of Terni. Also martyred by Claudius II. The Bishop is supposed to have tried to convert a local judge. The judge challenged him to prove the validity of his faith by healing his blind daughter. When the daughter could see the judge agreed to destroy all of the idols in his house and his entire family and household staff were converted and baptized. The judge also freed all of the Christian inmates in the local jail. Valentine was arrested for proselytizing and was sent to Rome. There Claudius gave him the chance to recant his faith or loose his life. He was beheaded on February 14, 269.
It has been noted by more than one scholar that these two men, may in fact have been the same man. The third man is more of a mystery. He is described as having “Suffered in Africa with a number of companions.” Little else is known. Perhaps he kept bees. Or was attacked by them. Did he have epilepsy? Did any of them?
While we may never be sure of the actual man who inspired the holiday we can enjoy the cards, flowers and chocolates that are sure to come our way this week.
So the notion that St. Valentine was beheaded on February 14 could be one reason we celebrate on this day. But there are other theories too.
It was believed in England and France in the Middle Ages that this was the time when all of the birds began to pair. This is noted in much literature of the time, i.e. Chaucer in Parliament of Foules:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
Another thought is that the Roman Holiday Lupercalia was celebrated in mid February, and this was a way to Christianize another popular existing pagan rite. This theory has fallen into disrepute in the last few years.
What ever the reason, St Valentine should be the patron saint of greeting card companies, chocolatiers and florists.