The Story of St. Valentine
by Joe Massingham, Volunteer Coordinator of CWI
The story of St. Valentine says he is the patron saint of lovers and we celebrate his feast day on February 14. Right? Well, not exactly. There are no less than fourteen ‘St. Valentines’ in the Roman Catholic church list and only a couple in the Greek Orthodox church. Will the real St. Valentine please rise?
None is definitively linked with February 14 and only one has even a remote tie to that date. (Born in Italy April 16, died on an uncertain date, and buried on February 14.), and yet church history doesn’t connect any of these saints with lovers.
There are three serious contenders for the ‘real’ St. Valentine: one a priest, one a bishop, and one a missionary in the Roman occupied territory, approximately where Libya is today.
To confuse matters further, no one knows if the February 14 feast commemorates all, some, or only one of the group. No wonder the Catholic church discontinued the commemoration in 1969, although most of the ‘St. Valentines’ remain on their books.
There is no doubt that the English-speaking world created many of the Valentine’s Day stories, but they were first published by the great English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer. The union of St. Valentine and love may link to old English tales of gallantry and knighthood.
In more modern times, relics of alleged St. Valentines have been identified in Rome (Italy), Dublin (Eire), Vienna (Austria), and Glasgow (Scotland). Another one was buried just north of Rome on the main road. Not troubled by the confusing history, Roquemaure, near Avignon in France also claims his remains. They seized opportunities for fame and fortune when the festival, ‘La Fête de Baiser’ (the Festival of Kissing) in 1989, focusing oddly on 19th century life and the heavy promotion of local wines. At least they included the kissing.
An interesting side story about the earliest claimant: St. Valentine supposedly ‘restored sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer.’ Perhaps we should work on linking St. Valentine to Creative Writing Institute and our work with cancer patients.
Creative Writing Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit charity that sponsors cancer patients in free writing courses. Support us by signing up for our newsletter at http://www.creativewritinginstitute.com.