Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saint Valentine ~ Priest and Martyr

Valentine with Gospels ~ Receiving the Martyr's Crown 

SAINT VALENTINE IS ONE OF THE SAINTS removed from the universal calendar reforms of  1969. I think that's unfortunate as we're so inclined to forget love or to get love wrong - why drop a martyr-saint whose life and death might help the culture to understand love rightly?

In his book All Saints - Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time, Robert Ellsberg offers a brief teaching on the life of Saint Valentine.

The association of St. Valentine with pink hearts, boxes of chocolates, and the exchange of romantic  fancies has no intrinsic source in the character or life of the saint. The origin of "St. Valentine's Day" - a day beloved of greeting card companies - is not entirely clear, but it seems to have taken root in England, a cold country where the signs of spring are eagerly anticipated. As far back as Chaucer it was commonly observed that birds began to pair and mate around the feast of St. Valentine, that is, from the middle of February.
In any case, the Valentine whose name is oddly commemorated was apparently a Christian priest in Rome who assisted martyrs during the persecution under Emperor Claudius II. He was eventually arrested and was beaten and beheaded.
Thus by offering his heart, he proved himself a true devotee of the God of Love.

The name Valentine (in Latin Valentinus) comes from valorem = value, and tenens = holding. So the name of the saint means holding the value or persevering in the value. What value? The truth of Christ. Goodness. His love for others in trouble. Christian holiness. Faith. 

Valentine might have been kept on the Universal Church Calendar for this reason alone - he encourages us in the struggle to hold the value. In Nigeria, Catholics risk death when they step out of their homes to go to Mass. I served in a Church where over a third of the Sunday congregation regularly walked out of the church with the host in their mouths - to be the first out of the parking lot. Talk about forfeiting the value!

But not to end on a polemical or sour note - let's keep St. Valentines Day with some conversation about naming the true value (not to be confused with the offerings of hardware store) and how we might more deeply hold it in perseverance.


  1. As my name is Valentina, I recall many times in parochial school explaining who St. Valentine was and how he had nothing to do with the Hallmark cards that were mailed on February 14th. So when I saw this, it brought me back in time. Many thanks Father Morris for your thoughts on this saint.

  2. Hello Valentina! Thank you for your thoughts. Hold onto the value and have a blessed feast day on Friday!

  3. Happy Valentine's Day Father. My kids always ask why is everyone leaving after communion. It bothers me too and it is all ages doing it. So disrepectful. I've taught my kids we don't leave until the priest has walked down the aisle.

  4. Hi Karen! I'm so glad you follow the posts. The children understand! I'm especially saddened that so many older folks walk out of Mass right after receiving Communion. They should know better. They're often quick to criticize younger generations for careless or rude behavior.