February 11, 2021

#08-048: The Legend of Saint Valentine

a woman in Renaissance clothes (the Virgin Mary) hands a rosary to a kneeling saint, with the help of an angel behind
Valentine receives a rosary from the Virgin Mary

Note: Every lover loves Valentine's Day. But did you know it is more properly called "The Feast of Saint Valentine"?

Get Ready: Do you celebrate Valentines Day, or some version of it? What do you do on that day?

In the early days of the Christian Church, there were at least three Roman saints named Valentine living around the same time. It was a fairly common name, derived from the Latin word valens, meaning "strong and healthy," and related to the English word "valiant." But the most likely candidate for the patron of our holiday (and also the patron of, among other things, bees, fainting, epilepsy, and the plague) was a bishop (or priest) named Saint Valentine of Terni.

In contrast to the sweet candies, beautiful cards, and romantic poetry associated with the holiday today, Valentine's story is rather gruesome.

Before he came along, the Romans celebrated a holiday from February 13-15 called Lupercalia, which involved sacrificing innocent animals and whipping women to make them more fertile. The women were then paired up with lovers to prove that the treatment worked.

During one such festival in 270 (or 278) CE, the Roman Emperor Claudius II beheaded Saint Valentine for continuing to perform marriage ceremonies in secret, even though the emperor had temporarily outlawed marriage to encourage more men to free themselves from family entanglements and join the army. Legend says that Valentine fell in love with his jailer's daughter (odd for a priest!) and wrote her a farewell note that was signed, "From your Valentine."

Since 496 CE, Valentine's execution day has been celebrated as a feast for this Christian martyr, perhaps to "Christianize" the pagan Lupercalia festival. But the "modern" celebration of the date began in the Middle Ages, when the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote (in modernized English) that "on Saint Valentine's day all the fowls came to choose their mates." Shakespeare, too, lauded the holiday. Around his time, people started exchanging hand-made cards on the day, as well as flowers and other tokens of love.

And so today we cut off the heads of flowers to commemorate a saint whose actual head was cut off!


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Valentine

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. entanglements
  2. epilepsy
  3. fainting
  4. fowls
  5. gruesome
  6. lauded
  7. martyr
  8. patron
  9. temporarily
  10. tokens

  1. a condition characterized by sudden uncontrollable seizures
  2. birds
  3. signs; symbols
  4. praised; honored
  5. involvement in difficulties
  6. a person who dies for his or her beliefs
  7. horrible; violent
  8. losing consciousness
  9. a guardian or protector, in a religious sense
  10. for a short time; not permanently

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 11, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. a; 3. h; 4. b; 5. g; 6. d; 7. f; 8. i; 9. j; 10. c