Y REV. FR. AUGUSTINE CHUKWUEBUKA NNADI
Valentine Day is one of the days widely anticipated and celebrated from the ancient time till date. Many young people all over the world have been caught in this web of celebration with0ut actually knowing what they are celebrating, and why they are celebrating Valentine Day.
As a Catholic Priest, I deemed it necessary to adequately inform people on the celebration of Valentine Day. Having conducted a rigorous research, I have decided to answer these pertinent questions which bothers on the issue of Valentine Day. The questions are as follows:
- What is the meaning of the word “Valentine”?
- Who is Valentine?
- What is the origin of Valentine day?
- Does the Church celebrate Valentine in its Liturgical calendar?
- Should Christians celebrate Valentine Day? If yes, how?
Before I begin, it is important to note that I do not claim to have all the knowledge because no one can have perfect knowledge. This is just my own personal research and contribution as an unworthy servant of God.
- WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE WORD, ‘VALENTINE?
Etymologically, the word “Valentine” comes from its Latin equivalence, “Valentinus” which was itself from the Latin word ‘valens’ meaning ‘strong’, ‘vigorous’, ‘healthy’. Thus, from its literary meaning, the word ‘Valentine’ has no connection with the word ‘love’.
- WHO IS VALENTINE?
According to a legend, Valentine was a holy Catholic priest and a physician in Rome. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius the Goth, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Emperor Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. The priest, 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.
Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.
Legend also has it that Valentine was placed in jail before his execution. While in jail, Valentine got acquainted with one of the jailers’ daughter, who was blind. Each time she visited the jail, her father would take her to Valentine, who taught her many things about God with captivating stories, encouraged her in her situation and prayed for her. For the first time in her life, this girl felt so loved and valued.
It was a true love that was pure and selfless. The bond between Valentine and the blind girl grew stronger and stronger till the day Valentine was finally executed. On that fateful day, Valentine left a farewell note for her lover, and signed it, “From Your Valentine”. Being blind, the girl could not read the letter directly. Her father read the letter to her.
She wept profusely, mourning her lover in deep sorrow with prayers and supplications to God. Miraculous, she was healed from her blindness that day. The testimony of her life and her encounter with Valentine, started spreading wide and far, that many people in Rome at that time, started praying at the tomb of Valentine as was the normal custom then with regard to people with lived astounding lives. Many more miracles were also recorded leading to popular acclamation of Valentine as a saint. February 14th, the day of his execution, became a memorial day of Valentine, who preached and lived out true and authentic love.
- What is the origin of Valentine day?
The romantic nature of Valentine’s Day may have been derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. According to English 18th-century antiquarians, Alban Butler and Francis Douce, Valentine’s Day was most likely created to overpower the pagan holiday, Lupercalia.
Legends vary on how the martyr’s name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentine’s Day.
Gradually, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers.
- Does the Catholic Church celebrate Valentine in its Liturgical calendar?
In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
Although the mid-February holiday celebrating love and lovers remains wildly popular, the confusion over its origins led the Catholic Church, in 1969, to drop St. Valentine’s Day from the Roman calendar of official, worldwide Catholic feasts. (Those highly sought-after days are reserved for saints with more clear historical record. After all, the saints are real individuals for us to imitate.) Some parishes, however, observe the feast of St. Valentine.
Whoever he was, Valentine did really exist, because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.
Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and were identified as Valentine’s. These were transported for a special Mass dedicated to those who are young and in love.
Fr. John Spratt received a gift from Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 contianing a “small vessel tinged” with St. Valentine’s blood. This gift now stands placed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Other alleged relics were found in Prague in the Church of St Peter and Paul at Vysehrad; in the parish church of St. Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno Poland; at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France; in the Stephansdom in Vienna; in Balzan in Malta and also in Blessed John Duns Scotus’ church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland.
St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.
- Should Christians celebrate Valentine Day? How?
Of course, yes. Valentine Day is worth celebrating. It should be a celebration of true love between married couples, parents and their children, engaged persons and friends. Westlife captured this love appropriately in their songs titled, “Flying without wings” as follows:
Everybody’s looking for that something
One thing that makes it all complete
You’ll find it in the strangest places
Places you never knew it could be.
Some find it in the face of their children
Some find it in their lover’s eyes
Who can deny the joy it brings
When you’ve found that special thing?
You’re flying without wings
Some find it sharing every morning
Some in their solitary lives
You’ll find it in the words of others
A simple line can make you laugh or cry
You’ll find it in the deepest friendship
The kind you cherish all your life
And when you know how much that means
You’ve found that special thing
You’re flying without wings
So impossible as it may seem
You’ve got to fight for every dream
‘Cause who’s to know which one you let go
Would have made you complete
Well, for me, it’s waking up beside you
To watch the sunrise on your face
To know that I can say, “I love you”
In any given time or place
The little things that only I know
Those are the things that make you mine
And it’s like flying without wings
‘Cause you’re my special thing
I’m flying without wings
And you’re the place my life begins
And you’ll be where it ends
I’m flying without wings
And that’s the joy you bring
I’m flying without wings.
This is what true love is all about. Love is like flying without wings. It has nothing to do with sex as people think. The foundation of true and authentic love is enumerated by St. Paul in his famous hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. According to him, love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way; love is not resentful; love does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Love is the greatest of all virtues.
Therefore, Valentine Day should be a celebration of true and authentic love which has nothing to do with sex. Thus we should not abuse Valentine Day by celebrating sex. St. Valentine showed love, lived love and died for love. Sex was never in the picture.
From these historical analysis, one thing is very clear. Valentine Day is a celebration of true love just as Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth. Unfortunately, the world has abused Valentine Day to be a celebration of sex and nudity just Christmas has become a celebration of frivolous acts.
There is serious need to restore the true celebration of Valentine Day. The task lies on all true Christians. Our lives as Christians must express selfless love in everything we do.
May God bless you as you celebrate Valentine Day in its true meaning. Remember, love is the watchword, and not sex. Love is life.
Fr. Drogba loves you all. Be my Val.
(BY REV. FR. AUGUSTINE CHUKWUEBUKA NNADI, A PRIEST OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF EKWULOBIA.)