St. Valentine baptizing St. Lucile
Saint Valentine's DayThe popular customs associated with Saint Valentine's Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer's Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's dayFor this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each other their Valentines. In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine's Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.Shortly after the young lady herself wrote a letter to the same man addressing it "Unto my rightwell beloved Valentine, John Paston Esquire". The custom of choosing and sending valentines has of late years fallen into comparative desuetude.
Saint Valentine, who was martyred around 269 and buried on the Via Flaminia in Rome, had a basilica constructed in his name less than 100 years after his death. Saint Augustine of Hippo delivered a brief sermon on Saint Valentine (Sermo 44 de Sanctis), focusing not on love or charity, but on patience.
HOMILIA SANCTI AUGUSTINI, EPISCOPI
SANCTI VALENTINI, PRESBYTERI ET MARTYRIS
Triumphalis beati Martyris Valentini dies hodie nobis anniversaria celebritate recurrit; cujus glorificationi sicut congaudet Ecclesia, sic ejus proponit sequenda vestigia. Si enim compatimur, et conglorificabimur.
In cujus glorioso agone duo nobis praecipue consideranda sunt: indurata videlicet tortoris saevitia, et Martyris invicta patientia. Saevitia tortoris, ut eam detestemur; patientia Martyris, ut eam imitemur.
Audi Psalmistam adversus malitiam increpantem: Noli aemulare in malignantibus, quoniam tamquam foenum velociter arescent. Quod autem adversus malignantes patientia exhibenda sit, audi Apostolum suadentem: Patientia vobis necessaria est, ut reportetis promissiones.
HOMILY OF SAINT AUGUSTINE, BISHOP
SAINT VALENTINE, PRIEST AND MARTYR
The day of triumph of the blessed Martyr Valentine returns to us today in its yearly celebration. As the Church rejoices in his glorification, so it proposes that his footsteps be followed. For if we suffer together, we shall also be glorified together.
In his glorious struggle two things must particularly be considered by us, namely, the brutality of his torture and the undefeated patience of the Martyr: the savageness of his torture, that we may censure it; the patience of the Martyr, that we may imitate it.
Heed the Psalmist railing against evilness: "Do not imitate those doing evil, since they quickly dry up like hay." Heed the Apostle urging that patience must be extended to those doing evil: "Patience is necessary for us, that we may earn the promises [of salvation]."