St. Valentine is celebrated for his courage

St. Valentine is celebrated for his courage

by Mandy Frohling

After seeing red hearts, chocolate candies and gushy lovers, one would never suspect the dark past of Valentine’s Day, but indeed it holds one for its namesake, St. Valentine.

St. Valentine was a priest in the second century of Rome who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II for two controversial reasons.

The first is one suspected by many educated authorities, including Tobias Winright, instructor of religion.

Supposedly, St. Valentine, along with St. Marius and his family, were assisting martyrs when Claudius II apprehended him to the prefect of Rome. Because Valentine wouldn’t worship the emperor as the almighty Lord, he was beaten with clubs and beheaded Feb. 14, 270 A.D.

The next belief about Valentine’s death is taken by the lovers of St. Valentine’s Day. The supporters of this theory believe that Claudius II forbid all young marriages because he thought the young men would be better suited as soldiers. St. Valentine did secret marriages to honor young love. When Claudius II found out about him disobeying the law, Valentine was sentenced to death.

The story of St. Valentine continues. While he was in jail, he cured the cell keeper’s daughter of her blindness, which made her instantly fall madly love with him. On the eve of his death, he secretly slipped the young girl a note, which was signed “from your Valentine.”

Winright does not take on this interpretation. He claims that marriage was not an issue in those times. The original, true love was agape love, he says, which was the love, not hate, of everyone. Agape love “became morphed into what Valentine’s (Day) really was,” according to Winright.

This day seemingly transformed into how we know it today because of the Festival of Lupercalia, a festival that honored Juno Feruato, the goddess of “feverish” love.

In this festival, young men and women gathered while a lottery system took place. Each person had his or her name drawn and were partnered with someone from the opposite sex for feasting and sexual games.

Obviously, Christians frowned upon this kind of event. They slowly tried to turn the “festival of flesh” into a “ritual for romance.” As it changed, men had to give expensive presents to the lady and the lottery progressively died out.

In 469 A.D., Pope Gelasius named Feb. 14 as the day to honor Saint Valentine. He became the Patron Saint of epilepsy, because he suffered from the disease. He also became the Patron Saint of lovers as the church assimilated the fertility festival Lupercalia into their calendar.

“Valentine is another martyr of the early church that I look up to,” Winright said. “That someone had that much faith to die for their faith is important to me.”