Valentine's Day and the Lesser-Known Martyr

Valentine’s Day is coming up and couples are going on dates, as they show their affection on the special day. But do they know about the origins of Valentine’s Day? When did it start and how did it come about?

You may not know this, but Valentine’s Day is actually the feast day of a saint! St. Valentine was a Christian born in the third century AD. Little is known about his life and it has often been disputed that he even existed! This is probably why many people don’t exactly know the origin of the day of love.

His name is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, a document compiled in the 5th century where a list of early Christian martyrs is found. Yes, you read that right: St. Valentine was a martyr who died for his faith.

Although there are actually three accounts of St. Valentine in traditional Christian hagiography connected to the date mentioned, the most reputable of them was that he was a Roman priest who—along with St. Marius—assisted martyrs during the era of persecution. He was later captured. Roman authorities forced him to renounce his faith, but he refused and stood his ground.

In the end, he persisted and was executed on the 14th of February, also the date established by Pope Gelasius I as his feast day. The feast of his martyrdom had been observed until 1969, where it was reduced by the Catholic Church merely to a local celebration rather than being Church-wide day of solemnity, due to the controversy regarding his actual existence. However, such observation is still present in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.

Whether or not St. Valentine was a real person, he still serves as an inspiration to many Christians to stand firm in their faith. As Valentine’s Day approaches, let us remember to not only consider love in a romantic context, but also as something divine—as was St. Valentine’s love for the faith.

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