Saint Valentine’s Day

My first blog, The Neighborhood of God, has been defunct for some years now. Occasionally, however, I go back to it to reclaim an essay. This one, on the history of Saint Valentine’s Day, was written in 2006.

If you visit the original, you can see the Baron’s card to me that year. [This year he gave me a Burma Shave card he drew up in his office where mere mortals do not tread.]

During the latter part of the third century A.D., Claudius was Emperor of Rome — Claudius II, that is. In what has to be one of the dumbest edicts ever devised, Claudius decided to outlaw marriage, thinking it would be more efficient to raise troops if he didn’t have to tear them away from their families.

On paper, this decree must have looked good to Claudius, and it’s doubtful anyone was willing to tell him how sand-poundingly stupid his idea really was. After all, what happens when you outlaw normal human behavior? Of course: normal human beings sneak around the corner and do it anyway.

Thus, young couples started showing up at the Bishop’s house — this was in Interamna, now Terni, Italy— asking to be married. The news quickly spread and Valentinus was called before Claudius to explain himself. At the time, Christians were not considered persona grata, so Claudius wanted to deal: if Valentinus would renounce his faith and his bishopric and stop this marriage business he could escape unharmed. Needless to say, Valentinus wasn’t having any.

Claudius ordered the Bishop to be martyred in three stages. I will spare you the details. While awaiting execution, it is said that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and that his love cured her blindness.

There are at least two martyrs named Valentinus, so parts of the legend probably have some fact. One of them is buried on the road to Rome, and one of the smaller gates leading into the city was called for many centuries St. Valentine’s Gate. It has some other name now.

Eventually — about 200 hundred years later, a brief period in ecclesial time — Valentinus was canonized. He was made the patron saint of lovers, of epileptics (he perhaps suffered this disorder), and a regular grab bag of other ailments or past times. He is, for example, the patron saint of beekeepers — no doubt because of pressure from the beekeeper’s lobby.

Saint Valentine is not only the patron of lovers; originally he was appealed to as the savior of troubled love. The old people swore he could save marriages. Hmmm…

Maybe when it ceased being Saint Valentine’s Day and just became candy and flowers…maybe then, the divorce rate began to rise?

Save marriage — put Saint Valentine back on the calendar!

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And for my beloved Baron, a quote from C. S. Lewis, that man most surprised by love:

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.

The Baron would probably say that the other tenth of our durable happiness comes from sharing a good meal.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, dear BB.

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So…waiting in my mailbox this morning was a card from the Baron.

Why, of course I can!

And, twelve years later, I still can.

6 thoughts on “Saint Valentine’s Day

  1. Nice, Dymphna, agree, wholly, and it is long overdue, our Creator, God, bee put back on all our calendars, and into our ‘hearts’ and ‘minds’, as the giver of the Way, of Life, in this Garden of Good and Evil. It goes well that way, with affection for our Lord, as we know we have His affection, always. It is said to be a 100% certain deal, in the Bible….

    One can learn more than at any time in history, save walking with Jesus, as a disciple, by the development of the web, the even greater tool than Guttenberg’s printing press.

    Access can be had for only a hundred dollars, to a couple thousand. Or free at a library, or inexpensive, plus transport cost, which for some is free, too. Books cost much money, much time often. They are a pleasure, too, as is the versatile computer, when used for education, or exploring the worlds beauty and mystery. Safely.

    When such a modern day revolution is used for the dark side, the costs do go up, many ways, however. As it should be. Sooner or later, the price will be paid, for those who consort with the devil, the dark side of the web.

    Thus the pleasure of seeing from time to time, the restoration of God to a revered place, at the Baronage, aka Schloss Bodisey, alles ist gut!

  2. Thank you for the lovely Valentine’s Day tale, and the CS Lewis quote; here is another that is relevant, and with which you are no doubt familiar:

    “For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives — to both, but perhaps especially to the woman — a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”
    —A Grief Observed

    And I personally take this to mean, at least partially, that somehow the very act of caring for others transcends the person themselves and ennobles them. And then there is God (at least we believers think so!): a Perfect Being yet somehow able to love us fragile and pathetically flawed humans. Now if that isn’t a miracle and a wonder, I don’t know what is.

  3. Things like candy, flowers, Starbucks etc. are simply expressions of the heart and were never meant to be a substitute for what was in the heart. The Christian lives in God’s Love through the Holy Spirit that dwells within the Christian’s heart. Having their provision and destiny thus assured, the Christian should be able to love from the heart as the Christian is loved and put others first in love and care in gratitude for what has been received. Now if we Christians were the example that we have been instructed to be and encouraged others to follow it, what a wonderful world this would be. With Heart-felt wishes for all the bloggers at this site….. feliz dia de Valentina

  4. Well, I’ve given my beloved a few roses over the two and a half years or so we’ve been together. When we met up yesterday, she had one for me- first time in my life, I believe, and I’ll be 70 next month. How wonderful to be surprised and delighted like this!

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