As it comes round again, I think I am getting too old for Valentine’s Day as the pink and glitter scream at us from every shop and magazine. I can remember back to when it really mattered to me if I got a Valentine card or not, but now I know my dearest husband will always give me one. Even when he was away abroad the florist would drive all the way out to our house with a wonderful bouquet of flowers from him ! This year he’s already bought me a vast arrangement of roses which he had to give me yesterday as otherwise they would be dead by Tuesday and, no doubt, a card will materialise on the day. So why am I complaining ??
I was interested to find out something about St. Valentine and why over 1 BILLIONs cards are sent on this day each year and 20 BILLION dollars spent on roses and gifts. Just who was this guy St. Valentine ?
Well even that question has a number of answers. The front runner seems to be a Roman priest that married people in secret as Emperor Claudius 11 had decreed it was better to be single ! When Valentine was caught he was hung, drawn and quartered and then his head cut off (just to make sure he was dead !) in AD 270.
There were several other Valentines between the 2nd and eighth centuries AD, but the most recent was a Spaniard of the Dominican Order who was Bishop of Vietnam until 1861 when he too got his head chopped off ! There was also a Pope Valentine, but he only lasted 40 days in AD 827 when he died !
Then just to confuse matters even further the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, but did that stop Valentine’s Day – no Sir ! In olden days Valentine had a wide range of responsibilities including, of course, to watch over the lives of lovers. But he also was called upon by bee-keepers and epileptics, as well as the plague, fainting and travelling.
The day could also have something to do with birds as it was long thought that birds came together to mate on February 14th, so why not people as well ?! If you would rather choose your mate on another date, there is always the female St. Valentina, a virgin martyred in Palestine on July 25th, AD 308 or St. Valentine of Viterbi on November 3rd. The Eastern Orthodox Church officially celebrates St. Valentine twice, as an elder of the Church on July 6th and as a martyr on July 30th.
Take your pick, but I wouldn’t recommend you calling your child Valentine as they all seem to have come to a rather gruesome ending though the name comes from the Latin Valentinus which means worthy, strong and powerful.
Perhaps, also, this is not the time to mention Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? I shall just leave you all to your thoughts of love and hope you don’t get smitten by the plague on the 14th and I shall take myself off to make a glittery pink card for my lovely husband !
To end with I should also mention that if any of you plan to visit my home, Ireland on holiday – in 1835 an Irish Carmelite priest used his Irish charm to convince Pope Gregory XVI to dig up St. Valentine’s remains and brought them to Ireland where he is buried under a Dublin church so we have him all to ourselves !