St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

Like St Nicholas of Myra & St Patrick of Armagh, St Valentine, or at least his name, has become part of modern popular culture. The calendar of the Church of England found in the traditional Book of Common Prayer (1662) commemorates Valentine as a bishop & martyr; that is, as one who died at the hands of unbelievers for confessing his/her faith in Jesus Christ. Anglican, Roman & Lutheran churches celebrate this feast on February 14th, the traditional date of his martyrdom. This is also the date of the pagan feast of Lupercalia, associated with fertility & sexuality, which some suggest is the reason Valentine came to be associated with the courtly love of the high middle ages and the romantic love of more modern times. A number of other theories relative to Valentine’s association with romantic or erotic love also have been put forward.

There also is some confusion as to the precise identity of this early martyr (as is often the case). The Latin name Valentinus (based on the Latin word valens, meaning worthy, strong, or powerful), was very common in late antiquity. There are stories of as many as three Valentines martyred on February 14th, two of them, one a priest, the other a bishop, were killed along the Via Flaminia, where they also were 
 buried. But, these men may be one and the same person. There are a number of conflicting traditions (as well as some rather fantastic tales) that are associated with one or more of these St Valentines. But the basic fact is that Valentine gave his life in witness to our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, during one of several persecutions of Christians that took place within the Roman Empire before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.

As noted above, a number of explanations have been offered as to why Valentine came to be associated with what we call romantic love. According to one version of Valentine’s martyrdom, Valentine was a priest of the church in Rome during the time of the Emperor Claudius II Gothicus (reigned 268-270AD). Claudius spent most of his time at war with various Germanic & Gothic invaders. In order to keep his army well-manned & well-disciplined, Claudius ordered the young men of Rome to remain unmarried. But Valentine continued to solemnize Christian marriages and otherwise give aid & comfort to the faithful; and for that he was arrested. The Emperor at first took a liking to the worthy Valentine; but his opinion changed when the priest refused to renounce his faith, and even tried to convert the emperor to Christ. Claudius ordered Valentine to be beaten & beheaded.
In our day, the Christian faith and individual Christians are under attack. This is taking place not only in Muslim countries, but increasingly in largely secularized Western countries, including our own. Those who defend the biblical concept of marriage and the family are particularly scorned. The real St Valentine is best thought of as a defender of Christian marriage, rather than a promoter of the debased version of romantic love now prevalent. As the Scriptures tell us, God is love. (1 St John 4:8, 16) They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect. (Wisdom 3:9)