February 14, 2021

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14 February
6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Quinquagesima Sunda
Feast of Saint Valentine

Or perhaps I should say “Feast of Saint Valentines”. Early editions of the Roman Martyrology provide these descriptions of two saints named Valentine celebrated on February 14.

At Rome, on the Flaminian road, in the time of the emperor Claudius, the birthday of blessed Valentine, priest and martyr, who after having cured and instructed many persons, was beaten with clubs and beheaded.

At Teramo, St. Valentine, bishop and martyr, who was scourged, committed to prison, and as he remained unshaken in his faith, was taken out of his dungeon in the dead of night and beheaded by order of Placidus, prefect of the city.

The feast of St. Valentine of February 14 was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among all those “...whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” The priest St. Valentine is supposed to have been a physician as well. His martyrdom would have happened during the persecution of Christians by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus about 270. He was buried on the Via Flaminia, and Pope Julius I reportedly built a basilica over his grave. On the website of the Diocese of Terni, the bishop St. Valentine enjoys a long biography along with rest of that diocese’ former bishops, who date back to San Pellegrino who founded the diocese in 138 A.D. It describes San Valentino as having been elected bishop in 197 and martyrs in 273.

According to legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Another common legend states that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. The devotion to St. Valentine focuses on a good lesson for our day: charity despite being under persecution. His modern popularity owes to his feast day being associated with the time when birds find their partners as in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer's:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

Saint Valentines, pray for us.
Rev. Christopher J. Pollard