Friday, February 13, 2009

Who is Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine: Holy Priest of Rome

The date of this Saint Valentine's birth is not known. Along with Saint Marius and his family, Saint Valentine assisted the martyrs during the persecution they suffered under the rule of Claudius II (also known as Claudius the Goth and Claudius the Cruel). In addition, since Rome was at the time involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns, the emperor found it difficult to recruit the male populace into joining his military leagues. Believing this to be because Roman men were adverse to leaving their loved ones or their familes, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements within the City of Rome.

Saint Valentine and Saint Marius, however, continued to perform wedding ceremonies in secret. When is was discovered that Saint Valentine was defying the emperor's decree, he was apprehended and dispatched by Claudius to the Prefect of Rome who, being unable to force the saint to renounce Christianity, ordered that Valentine be clubbed, stoned and then beheaded.

According to tradition, while Valentine waited in prison for his execution, he corresponded with those under his care by sending letters and love notes to his parishioners. It is also believed that while incarcerated, the Bishop fell in love with a young woman who visited him during his confinement. According to some sources, this was the blind daughter (whose name may have been Julia) of Asterius, the jailer. It is said that God enabled Valentine to miraculously restore the girl's sight. Popular belief indicates that Valentine's farewell message to his love contained a closing that has now transcended time: "From Your Valentine."

The saint was executed on February 14 in either 269 A.D. or 270 A.D. In 270 A.D., Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in the saint's memory at a location once known as Porta Valentini and now called Porta del Popolo. The relic bones of this Saint Valentine, who may also have been a physician, are now housed within the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome.

Saint Valentine: Bishop of Interamna

This Saint Valentine is said to have been scourged, imprisoned and beheaded by Placidus, Prefect of Interanma. The relic bones of this Saint Valentine are housed in a basilica in Terni, a town in Italy which hails Saint Valentine as its Patron Saint. It is believed that the saint, who lived in the Third Century, dedicated his life to the Christian community of Terni, becoming the first Bishop of the town. Adored by the populace, the fame of Saint Valentine's holiness and miracles reached Rome, his name being linked with love because, according to legend, he was the first religious personage to oversee the celebration of marriage between a pagan man and a Christian woman.

Sentenced to death in Rome, he was martyred on February 14 along the Via Flaminia and swiftly buried in order to prevent rioting by the Christians. It is said that three of Saint Valentine's disciples managed to find the body, transferring it to Terni, where the remains were interred within a sacred place. The Basilica of Saint Valentino was later erected in the same location to honor the saint and invoke his protection and blessing. Every year on February 14, the town of Terni now hosts exhibitions, fairs and cultural events which attract many tourists to the area.

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be the Feast Day of Saint Valentine...Patron Saint of Lovers and Engaged Couples, with particular jurisdiction over the quarrels which arise between sweethearts. The patronage of Saint Valentine also extends to epilepsy (from which he is believed to have suffered), bee-keepers, plague, greetings, travellers and young people. His representations include: birds, roses, a bishop with a crippled or epileptic child at his feet; a bishop with a rooster nearby; a bishop refusing to adore an idol; a bishop being beheaded; a priest bearing a sword; a priest holding a sun; and a priest bestowing sight upon a blind girl. Throughout the world, there are several special resorts that exhibit a romantic year-round theme (but particularly on February 14 with elaborate celebrations) and which are named in honor of Saint Valentine...Saint-Valentin in France (also known as "le village pour les Amoureux"), Saint-Valentin in Austria, Saint-Valentin in Quebec, Canada (founded in 1835 and granted the unique distinction of being the only location in the world with permission to use a heart-shaped date stamp on outgoing mail) and Sakuto Cho in Japan, for example.


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