Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

That's ST. Valentine to you

Most people inflicted with my society have had to endure my rant on the fact the "St." part was dropped from St. Valentine's Day. Ironically, the only time you hear the "St." bit is when someone is talking about the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

So, because I'm all about the edifying, here is the scoop on St. Valentine:

Valentine was a priest in Terni, and he was installed as a bishop in Rome. By training he was a physician. Sometimes he is found in the various books and texts as St. Valentine of Terni and other times as St. Valentine of Rome. (Sometimes people get confused with St. Valentinian of Africa, but he was a different martyr.)

One day he was tending his garden when a centurion named Sabino and a Christian woman named Serapia approached him--he had a general reputation of being kind, and wise and all that--because they were in love but:
a) Christianity was being persecuted and
b) Li'l Miss Christian wouldn't consent to marriage unless Sabino converted, dangerous as that was, especially given his rank and position in the army.

He made them a present of a bouquet of roses (or maybe one rose, accounts differ) which would remain in bloom until one or the other had changed his (or her) mind.

It was Sabino who relented and having converted, Valentine married them in secret. The marriage turned out so so happy that many other similar couples followed their example, to such a point that the Church was induced to dedicate one day of the year to a general benediction of the state of matrimony. But Emperor Claudius and his gang weren't so keen on their centurions, legionnaires, soldiers and senators, etc. going off and marrying Christians and converting. After all, the Emperor (starting with Aurelius, I think) had ordered Christians were to be persecuted and fed to the lions and all that and this stuff, frankly, made them look bad. They found out who was responsible and, catching him in the act of performing a wedding, seized him. They probably beat him up along the process, what with Romans being Romans.

Anyway, the next day he was dragged before the prefect and thrown in the dungeon. While he was there he cured the dungeonkeeper's (a guy named Asterius) daughter Julia of blindness. The entire family converted and he secretly baptized them. When the prefect, Placidus Furius (ni-i-i-i-ice, huh?) heard of this miracle and the subsequent conversion of one of the more prominent families in Roman dungeonkeeping circles, he was livid. He sent orders that Valentine was to be beaten with staves in public and then beheaded.

On 14 February, 273 A.D., he was beaten for the prescribed 3 hours and then beheaded in Rome. The morning of the execution, he is said to have sent the dungeonkeeper's family a farewell message signed, "From your Valentine." His body was thrown outside the city walls and buried in the catacombs along the Flaminian Way; his relics were later transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes, although some relics are found in Ireland, Scotland and Malta, to name a few spots.
In 1644 he was proclaimed Patron Saint of Terni (in Umbria, Italy) and also patron saint of those in love. The Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni was built in 1605 on the ruins of Roman temples, and contains works of art of some interest, particularly in the crypt.

He is the patron of stuff you'd expect, such as affianced couples, betrothed couples, engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers; as well my favorite, listed withouth the slightest shred of irony: greeting card manufacturers.

However he is also the patron of travelers, young people and for reasons which have yet to be adequately explored, bee keepers. ("I love you, Honey?") His intercession is invoked against fainting, epilepsy, and the plague. (All of which are element which will be vaguely familiar to happily married couples.)

And now you know.



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