The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is not clear. In 313 A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity and in 380 A.D. Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated on February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
Some claim that Pope Glasius, named February 14 in honor of St. Valentine as the patron saint of lovers in 496 A.D. St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration for one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
In His service,
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