The St. Valentine of Valentine’s Day

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According to Hallmark Cards, each year on Valentine’s Day more than 163 million cards are exchanged – a quarter of all the cards that are sent in a year. How did the name of a third-century Christian martyr become linked with an annual celebration of romantic love? Let’s explore the history of Valentine’s Day…

The roots of Valentine’s Day go back to the time of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia.

By the third century the golden era of Roman empire had almost come to an end. Lack of quality administrators led to frequent civil strife. Education declined, taxation increased and trade was difficult. The empire had grown too large to be shielded from external aggression and internal chaos with existing forces. More and more capable men were required to to be recruited as soldiers and officers to protect the nation from takeover. The Emperor Claudius II felt that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, would not make good soldiers. So to assure high quality soldiers he issued an edict forbidding marriage.

The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their protest against the mighty emperor. The Christian bishop Saint Valentine also realized the injustice of the decree. Seeing the distriess of young couples who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage, he planned to counter the monarch’s orders in secrecy. Whenever couples thought of marrying, they went to Saint Valentine who met them afterwards in a secret place, and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. And thus he secretly performed many marriages for young couples. But such things cannot remain hidden for long and it was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of these secret marriages and had the saint arrested.

While awaiting his sentence in prison, the saint was approached by his jailor, Asterius. Hearing of Saint Valentine’s divinely given power of healing, Asterius requested the latter to restore the sight of his blind daughter, which he did.

When Claudius met Saint Valentine, he was said to have been impressed by the dignity and conviction of the holy bishop. However, Saint Valentine refused to agree with the emperor regarding the ban on marriage. It is also said that the emperor tried to convert Saint Valentine to the Roman gods but was unsuccessful in his efforts. The saint refused to recognize the Roman Gods and even attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity. This angered Claudius who gave the order of execution of Saint Valentine.

Meanwhile, it caused great grief to Asterius’ young daughter to hear of her miraculous benefactor’s imminent death. Legend says that just before his execution, Saint Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor and signed a farewell message to the jailor’s daughter “From Your Valentine” … a phrase that lived ever after.

Orientation on the Goods of Marriage: Permanence

  Patrick J. DiVietri. Ph.D., CPC, OCDS

“Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”  “I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”

No matter what you do, I will remain married to you till death. I promise always to forgive you.  There is a radical difference between couples who contemplate divorce and those who do not see it as an option.  Those dedicated to preserve the marriage will recover far quicker then those whose purpose is weakened by indecisiveness of possible escape hatches. The mistaken notion that many suffer from is that “God wants me to be happy and therefore I will leave this painful situation to find happiness somewhere else.”  My professional counsel to those who say this is, “God wants you to be happy in this life and the next.  However, the suffering of this life may be part of the happiness in the next life.  We also know that suffering is a part of deepening the capacity for happiness even in this life.”  In light of Faith we may also say that “you may not be happy with this spouse but you will not find happiness with another spouse.”  The only avenue for that happiness is through the vocation to the spouse to whom you have been bound.        It is important to explain to couples the situations where pain might be intolerable and a separation may be required because of grave circumstances.   The two situations that best fit this description are:

  1. Physical abuse of spouse or children that is ongoing and not being remedied
  2. Flaunted infidelity such that the children are aware of it and will be given the message that such behavior is acceptable if separation did not take place.  The separation is for the sake of reconciliation.

Cultural Influences against permanence

There is a need to discuss the problem of the Catholic approach to divorce.  I.e. We don’t get divorces per se so when there is a crisis in the marriage we say, “There wasn’t any marriage in the first place.”  One immediately assumes that there wasn’t a valid marriage in order to justified the civil divorce.

These days, we hate the idea of pain and suffering. We don’t see it as redemptive. We don’t see any value in it. But people who know what love is understand suffering. People who love know that suffering has value. When you love someone, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t endure for that person, including the cross. In the end we know that love conquers all things, because love conquered all things when Christ conquered death on the cross.

One must also address the issue of parental divorce and the effect upon the engaged couple.  One must ascertain the circumstances of the divorce and how the engaged person/couple views the divorce.  They need to consider how they intellectually view permanence and what their experience and emotional development might be.  For example, a common dynamic is as follows:

  1. “I am against divorce.”
  2. “My parents divorced and I don’t want to do that.”
  3. “They divorced because they said it was too painful to be together any longer and that they were better off apart.”
  4. “I love both my parents and I accept their decision.  They really were hurting each other too much and it’s better.”

What’s the experiential message?  “Marriage is permanent but if the pain is too much, divorce is better.”  What will happen when things get really painful?

The individual has to confront this idea and think through how they will make their life different.

What would the couple do?

  1. Do you know of a married couple who gave up on their marriage because their jobs and personal interests pulled them apart?
  2. What would you be willing to do with your own spouse to make your marriage work?
  3. How could you safeguard the permanence of your marriage?