Washington D.C., 11 February, 2024 / 12:00 pm (ACI Africa).
If you’re giving up sweets for Lent, you may not be happy to learn that this year Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. But while the day typically marked by heart-shaped candies, Hallmark cards, and giant teddy bears may seem antithetical to the beginning of Lent, a closer look at St. Valentine reveals a much deeper love story.
Tradition has it that the third-century martyr St. Valentine would marry couples in secret because of an edict by Emperor Claudius banning marriage. Valentine, who wanted to support marriage during an age of promiscuity, was ultimately imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded by Emperor Claudius for refusing to deny his faith.
There are two accounts of St. Valentine, and it’s unclear whether they refer to the same person. One identifies him as a priest in Rome, but the other describes him as the bishop of Terni. Though the Church still recognizes him as a saint, St. Valentine was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius are now celebrated on Feb. 14.
Though little can be confirmed about his life, in death St. Valentine remains the patron saint of lovers as well as beekeepers and epileptics. His skull can be found today in the minor basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, reminding visitors of the sacrificial nature of love.