14 February 2008

Saint Valentine's Day

I love history and legend. I love history because it tells us how we got to where we are today. I love legend, perhaps even more than history, because sometimes the legend becomes more important than the history. Does it really matter if someone actually said to Father Flanagan "...he ain't heavy father, he's my brother...", probably not... the story is set and Boys Town has it's iconic moment. We have two perfect examples of legend being more important than the history today with Saint Valentine's Day, and in a month with Saint Patrick's Day.

Who was Valentine? And just as important with early Christian church heroes, did he exist?
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.
...from the article below linked under "Church".
Surprisingly, the Church and other sources agree on many regards, including the scarcity of real information. Of course the Wikipedia sources are a little more down and dirty. There was a grave/sarcophagus found unearthed outside of Rome that had an inscription saying it was a priest named Valentine, so someone existed by that name, but it could have been several someones.

The Eastern church celebrates Valentine's martyrdom on a different day from the Roman Church, so I think it is most interesting about why February 14 is the date in Western culture. By choosing February 14, it superseded a pagan festival which had fertility components. Both articles agree on that, although the wording about the holiday is a little different in each article. Which makes me wonder if All Saints Day came before Halloween or vise versa... but that is research for another day.

Which leads us with just one question: what's up with the Catholic church having a patron saint of lovers ... aren't they supposed to be discouraging that kind of activity?

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!

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