Be My Valentine

steve-martinIf you want to spice things up with your Valentine tonight, try this: show up to your romantic dinner at that cozy bistro dressed as the martyred St. Valentine. He was evidently beaten and stoned before his beheading at the hand of the Roman emperor for marrying couples in the Christian faith. So, depending on how realisitic you want to make this, it might get a bit messy. Perhaps a simple Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head prop would suffice. Though maybe you should just stick to the roses.

But as we celebrate Valentine’s Day I thought it might be helpful to reflect upon the real St. Valentine. Actually, there’s some confusion over this since there appears to have been more than one St. Valentine. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 to mark the death of a St. Valentine on February 14th. But even then it seems to have been a day to mark several martyred saints sharing the name Valentinus (from the Latin valens meaning worthy).

Nonetheless, the modern feast day likely commemorates the St. Valentine who was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II (260-270 AD). He was arrested for marrying Christian couples and assisting those facing persecution – a crime in those days. Valentine tried to convert the emperor and was put to death.

It wasn’t until 14th century England that the feast started to become a celebration of romantic love. The poet Geoffrey Chaucer is often credited with bringing together the romantic imagery of blooming spring and birds choosing their mates. In The Parliament of Fowles Chaucer’s was the first mention of St. Valentine in a love poem.

My clergy colleague and running partner Patrick Ward (thanks for a good 14 miles this morning) tells brides and grooms who choose the famous “wedding passage” from 1st Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient, love is kind”) to insert the word ‘Jesus’ whenever they see the word ‘love.’ Because that’s really what Paul was getting at. It’s a good reminder that God’s love for us is the source of all romantic love.

And one final note: contrary to the ad campaign, every kiss does not begin with Kay. I hope.


One Comment on “Be My Valentine”

  1. Fr. Patrick Ward says:

    Good one especially the shout out to your former running buddy (ME).

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