Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About St. Valentine and Didn’t Care to Ask

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury’s time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.

From a Carmelite community in Ireland:

The Roman Martyrology commemorates two martyrs named Valentine (or Valentinus) on February 14 which seems to indicate that both were beheaded on the Flaminian Way, one at Rome the other at Terni which is some 60 miles from Rome. Valentine of Rome was a priest who is said to have died about 269 during the persecution of Claudius the Goth (or Claudius II Gothicus). The other Valentine was allegedly Bishop of Terni, and his death is attested to in the Martyrology of St Jerome. Whether there were actually one or two Valentines is disputed. One possibility is that is two cults ? one based in Rome, the other in Terni ? may have sprung up to the same martyr but that in the mists of time his true identity became confused. . . .

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel 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. Claudius had also ordered all Romans to worship the state religion?s idols, and he had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ, and not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. Valentine and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, in either 269 or 270.

This is one legend surrounding Valentine?s martyrdom. The second is that during the last weeks of his life a remarkable thing happened. One day a jailer for the Emperor of Rome knocked at Valentine?s door clutching his blind daughter in his arms. He had learned of Valentine?s medical and spiritual healing abilities, and appealed to Valentine to treat his daughter?s blindness. She had been blind since birth. Valentine knew that her condition would be difficult to treat but he gave the man his word he would do his best. The little girl was examined, given an ointment for her eyes and a series of re-visits were scheduled.

Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might also be brought to Valentine for lessons. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentine read stories of Rome?s history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted in his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.

One day she asked if God really existed and Valentine assured her that He did. She went on to tell him how she prayed morning and night that she might be able to see and Valentine told her that whatever happened would be God?s will and would be for the best. They sat and prayed together for a while.

Several weeks passed and the girl?s sight was not restored. Yet the man and his daughter never wavered in their faith and returned each week. Then one day, Valentine received a visit from the Roman soldiers who arrested him and who now destroyed his medicines and admonished him for his religious beliefs. When the little girl?s father learned of his arrest and imprisonment, he wanted to intervene but there was nothing he could do.

On the eve of his death, Valentine wrote a last note to Julia – knowing his execution was imminent. Valentine asked the jailer for a paper, pen and ink. He quickly jotted a farewell note and handed it to the jailer to give to his blind daughter. He urged her to stay close to God, and he signed it ?From Your Valentine.? His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 269 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini (now Porta del Popolo) in his memory.

When the jailer went home, he was greeted by his little girl. The little girl opened the note and discovered a yellow crocus inside. The message said, ?From your Valentine.? As the little girl looked down upon the crocus that spilled into her palm she saw brilliant colours for the first time in her life! The girl?s eyesight had been restored.

He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome, near the cemetery of St Hippolytus. It is said that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship. . . .

Compiled from various sources including The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (New York: McGraw Hill. 1967), Butler?s Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other principal Saints, and from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (London. 1962).

From the same community, come the following liturgical texts:

Entrance Antiphon

Here is a true martyr who shed his blood for Christ.
His judges could not shake him by their menaces,
and so he won through to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Opening Prayer

All powerful, ever living God,

You gave St Valentine the courage to witness to the Gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. By his prayers help us to endure all suffering for love of you and to seek you with all our hearts, for you alone are the source of life.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son . . . .

First Reading

A reading from the letter of St James.
James 1:2-4, 12

You will always have your trials, but when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become more fully developed, complete, with nothing missing. . . . Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

This is the word of the Lord.


A reading from the holy Gospel according to John.
John 12:24-26

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father?s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete. This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master?s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father. You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you, is to love one another.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Prayers of the Faithful

Lord, as we come to praise and worship you as Lord of our lives on this, the feast of St Valentine, help us to imitate his love for you and for each other. We ask you to listen and to grant our prayers:

We pray for all who have entered the Sacrament of Marriage: that they may be strengthened through prayer and the sacraments; that they may be a witness to the world of the joy of their lives together. Lord, . . .

For those who have recently become engaged: we thank God for them and pray for them that the Lord will help them in practical ways as they prepare for their lives together and that they will be blessed with good health and material blessings. Lord, . . .

We hear of many for whom marriage has broken down or where sickness or sadness seems to be their lot: Lord, you have promised we are never on our own, be with those who suffer and grant them your healing in their painful situation. Lord, . . .

We pray that the ideals of Christian Marriage may always be preserved: those ideals which value friendship, life, mutual help and love. May our homes be as that of the Holy Family ? open to God and neighbour. Lord, . . .

Finally, let us pray that, like the seed that falls to the ground and dies, we may die daily to our own selfishness so that the true wheat of love may grow in our lives for others to see and take heart. Lord, . . .

Let us pray,

Lord, home is where love is meant to be and where you tell us you are present. Help us to make that presence real in our homes and communities by banishing evil and installing instead your grace. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.

Blessing of Rings

X bless these rings.
Grant that those who wear them
may always be faithful to each other.
May they do your will
and live in peace with you in mutual love.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Prayer over the gifts

God of love,
pour out your blessing on our gifts
and make us strong in faith,
the faith which St Valentine professed by the shedding of his blood.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

Lord, we are renewed by the mystery of the Eucharist.
By imitating the fidelity of St Valentine,
and by our patience,
may we come to share the eternal life you have promised.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord.

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