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The Inspiring History of Saint Valentine

February 12, 2015

Ladies and gentleman, we are nary a day or two away from Saint Valentine’s Day. The 14th of February, should our modern culture be a guide, is a wondrous time to go buy lots of chocolate and roses. It’s the perfect time (for the other 364 days of the year must be inherently flawed) , yes the perfect time, to go to a restaurant. In fact, its so perfect that in the crowded restaurant you shall hear this cacophony of voices. Unable to hear each other speak without shouting – a decidedly un-romantic tone of voice! – you shall sit in silence, forced to contemplate each others most inner thoughts, and why the food is being served slower than usual. Is that because the restaurant is full?

Also, you’re given open licence to buy expensive diamond rings, propose on a greasy restaurant floor, and dash yourself on the rocks of commercialism!

—.

So goes the negative thoughts of many, ladies and gentleman, for valid reasons. Perhaps Valentines Day is utterly shallow. But that’s only if we let it be so shallow. Let me tell you the brief, yet inspiring tale of Saint Valentine, to rekindle the dying embers of your Romantic souls, and bringing forth a towering inferno of love!

There once was a Roman named Valentinus. Valentinus, his love so strong for others, performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry, bringing the embers of love to marshalled hearts. But for this “crime” and for ministering to persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire, Valentinus was imprisoned! Imprisoned, for stirring hearts to love. According to legend (for yes, the historiography of Valentinus is sketchy!), Valentinus restored the sight of his daughter’s jailer through his very love. One embellishment of Valentinus’ life describes how he was executed for his crimes of marrying soliders! Oh, how a towering inferno can burn those in love.

For his miracles, Valentinus became Saint Valentine. Today, the Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate Valentine, and though the Catholic Church does not mark aside a day for Valentine – so unclear is the historical record – he is still heralded as a Saint.

So next time you go out for Saint Valentine’s Day, remember that you do honour to a saint, and live up to the saintly virtues.

Alas though, our tale does not end there. For the great Geoffrey Chaucher, in the poem Parlement of Foules, written in the High Middle Ages to honour the anniversary of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia, did resurrect the Valentine name and tradition. (“For this was sent on Valentines Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate”). From Chaucher and the tradition of courtly love did the sapling of Valentinus’ love spring forth anew, growing in the fertile fields of courtship of the day. Valentines began to be associated with handwritten notes, and those endearing old style touches of courtship. Sending Valentines day cards was so common a practice in England (yes, England, not the US, for those who talk of US commercialism gone rampant!) that in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mr. Harrison’s Confessions (1851) we do read “”I burst in with my explanations: ‘The valentine I know nothing about.’ ‘It is in your handwriting’, said he coldly.”

Thus, let us add to the virtues of saints, the magic of courtly love and Victorian gentleman. Saints, knights and gentlemen! Why, dear reader, here lies ideals to cherish and live up to.

Though we could call Valentines Day a ‘Hallmark Holiday’ in recognition of the American commercialisation of the day in the 20th century, let us instead call it by its rightful name Saint Valentines Day. Let us not channel our wealth into chocolates, but our saintly, courtly and gentlemanly and ladylike selves into higher virtues of kindness, altruism and love. Let us tap into the deep well of love of Saint Valentine, and bring forth a gushing tide of unrequited, and golden love.

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From → Foundations

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