Love is in the air!
Regardless of their religious beliefs, millions of people around the world observe Valentine’s Day on February 14th every year by doing something romantic for their beloved.
But how much do you really know about the real St. Valentine?
Here’s the first thing to know: there are at least three St. Valentines – all of them martyrs – who have been remembered on February 14th.
The name Valentine comes from the Latin word valens, which means “strong” or “powerful,” and there were many people in the ancient world with that name.
The earliest one was St. Valentine of Rome. He was a priest in Rome, martyred in A.D. 269, and buried near the Via Flaminia. That’s pretty much all we know about him. (His skull is in the picture above.)
Another one who lived right around the time of the first was St. Valentine of Terni (or Interamna). He was a bishop in central Italy who was martyred in A.D. 273. He was also buried near the Via Flaminia.
The third St. Valentine was martyred with a group of companions in Africa at some point in the early Church.
“St. Valentine” was added to the liturgical calendar by Pope Galesius in A.D. 496. It may have been St. Valentine of Rome, or some combination of the three (the lives of saints with the same name sometimes blur together).
There are also at least 11 more St. Valentines that came later, but who are not remember on February 14th.
But what about the stories about St. Valentine marrying soldiers in secret, or writing love letters? These stories all came centuries later and are not considered reliable by most historians. They may be based on some truth but it’s hard to really know.
In fact, this is why St. Valentine’s feast was not included in the General Roman Calendar in its 1969 revision: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”
Today, February 14th in the General Roman Calendar is the feast of Ss. Cyril and Methodius.
Of course, since the feast of St. Valentine was still on the liturgical calendar in 1962, February 14th remains St. Valentine’s Day in the Extraordinary Form.
Even if we don’t know much about them, we can still ask: