Valentine’s Day is likely named for several saints. The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions three Saint Valentines, all with a connection to February 14. One was a Roman priest; one a bishop in modern Terni, Italy; and the third, a saint in the Roman province of Africa.
Rome was engaged in a variety of bloody campaigns during that era, so Emperor Claudius needed a large, strong army. However, potential soldiers weren’t eager to sign up. Claudius concluded that Roman men preferred being home with their wives and children, so he banned all marriages and engagements.
Valentine thought that decree unjust and continued performing marriages for couples in secret. When Claudius learned of this, he ordered Valentine arrested, beaten to death, then beheaded. A legend evolved that while in jail, Valentine left a note for his friend, the jailer’s daughter. According to the legend, he signed the note, “Your Valentine.”
Regardless of which Saint Valentine is behind the holiday, history is vague on how the martyrdom of St. Valentine got connected to this annual love holiday. How do you express your love? Whose love has transformed your life?
This message is excerpted from “The history of Valentine’s Day” by Kathryn Haueisen from the February 14, 2019, blog of the Women of the ELCA.
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