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The Legend of Saint Valentine

The Roman Martyrology commemorates two
martyrs named Valentine (or Valentinus)
on February 14 which seems to indicate
that both were beheaded on the Flaminian Way,
one at Rome, the other at Terni
which is some 60 miles from Rome.

Valentine of Rome was a priest
who is said to have died about 269
during the persecution of Claudius the Goth
(or Claudius II Gothicus).
The other Valentine was allegedly Bishop of Terni,
and his death is attested to
in the Martyrology of St Jerome.
Whether there were actually one or two Valentines
is disputed. One possibility is that is two cults
– one based in Rome, the other in Terni –
may have sprung up to the same martyr
but that in the mists of time his true identity
became confused.


In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday
to honour Juno - the Queen of the Roman Gods. 
The Romans also knew her as the Goddess
of women and marriage.
The following day, February 15th, began the
Feast of Lupercalia.
At the time the lives of young boys and girls

were strictly separate. However, one of
the customs of the young people
was name drawing.
On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia
the names of Roman girls were written
on slips of paper and placed into jars.
Each young man would draw a girl’s name
from the jar and they would then be
partners for the duration of the festival.
Sometimes the pairing of the children

lasted an entire year, and often, they would
fall in love and would later marry.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II,
Rome was involved in many bloody
and unpopular campaigns.
Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time
getting soldiers to join his military leagues.
He believed that the reason was that
roman men did not want to leave
their loves or families.
As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages
and engagements in Rome.
Claudius had also ordered all Romans
to worship the state religion’s idols,
and he had made it a crime punishable by death
to associate with Christians.
But Valentinus was dedicated
to the ideals of Christ,
and not even the threat of death could keep him
from practicing his beliefs.
Valentine and Saint Marius aided the
Christian martyrs and secretly married couples,
and for this kind deed Valentine was apprehended
and dragged before the Prefect of Rome,
who condemned him to be beaten to death
with clubs and to have his head cut off.
He suffered martyrdom on the 14th of February,
in either 269 or 270.

This is one legend surrounding Valentine’s martyrdom.



The second is that during the last weeks
of his life a remarkable thing happened.
One day a jailer for the Emperor of Rome
knocked at Valentine’s door
clutching his blind daughter in his arms.
He had learned of Valentine’s
medical and spiritual healing abilities,
and appealed to Valentine
to treat his daughter’s blindness.
She had been blind since birth.
Valentine knew that her condition
would be difficult to treat
but he gave the man his word
he would do his best.
The little girl was examined,
given an ointment for her eyes
and a series of re-visits were scheduled.


 Seeing that he was a man of learning,
the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia,
might also be brought to Valentine for lessons.
Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind.
Valentine read stories of Rome’s history to her.
He described the world of nature to her.
He taught her arithmetic and told her about God.
She saw the world through his eyes,
trusted in his wisdom, and found comfort
in his quiet strength.

One day she asked if God really existed
and Valentine assured her that He did.
She went on to tell him how she prayed
morning and night that she might be able to see
and Valentine told her that whatever happened
would be God’s will and would be for the best.
They sat and prayed together for a while.

Several weeks passed and the girl’s sight
was not restored.

Yet the man and his daughter never wavered in their faith and returned each week.
Then one day, Valentine received a visit
from the Roman soldiers who arrested him
and who now destroyed his medicines
and admonished him for his religious beliefs.
When the little girl’s father learned of his arrest
and imprisonment, he wanted to intervene
but there was nothing he could do.


On the eve of his death, Valentine wrote a last note
to Julia - knowing his execution was imminent.
Valentine asked the jailer for a paper, pen and ink.
He quickly jotted a farewell note and handed it
to the jailer to give to his blind daughter.
He urged her to stay close to God, and he signed it
“From Your Valentine.”
His sentence was carried out the next day,
February 14, 269 A.D., near a gate
that was later named Porta Valentini
(now Porta del Popolo) in his memory.

When the jailer went home,
he was greeted by his little girl.
The little girl opened the note
and discovered a yellow crocus inside.
The message said, “From your Valentine.”
As the little girl looked down upon the crocus
that spilled into her palm
she saw brilliant colours for the first time in her life!
The girl’s eyesight had been restored.

He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes
in Rome, near the cemetery of St Hippolytus.
It is said that Julia herself planted
a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave.
Today, the almond tree remains a symbol
of abiding love and friendship.


In 496 Pope Gelasius I named February 14
as Saint Valentine’s Day.
On each Valentine’s Day, messages of affection,
love and devotion are still exchanged around the world.

This could be because of Valentine’s work
in marrying couples against the law,
or because of the miracle worked for Julia
and the message he left for her.



Prayer to St Valentine

O glorious advocate and protector,

St Valentine,

look with pity upon our wants,

hear our requests,

attend to our prayers,

relieve by your intercession the miseries

under which we labour,

and obtain for us the divine blessing,

that we may be found worthy to join you

in praising the Almighty for all

eternity: through the merits of

Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.




O Jesus, lover of the young,
the dearest Friend I have,
in all confidence I open my heart to You
to beg Your light and assistance
in the important task of planning my future.
Give me the light of Your grace,
that I may decide wisely
concerning the person
who is to be my partner through life.
Dearest Jesus, send me such a one
whom in Your Divine wisdom
You judge best suited to be united
with me in marriage.
May her/his character reflect some of the traits
of Your own Sacred Heart.
May he/she be upright, loyal, pure,
sincere and noble, so that with united efforts
and with pure and unselfish love
we both may strive to perfect ourselves
in soul and body, as well as the children
it may please You to entrust to our care.
Bless our friendship before marriage,
that sin may have no part in it.
May our mutual love bind us so closely,
that our future home may ever be most like
Your own at Nazareth.
O Mary Immaculate, sweet Mother of the young,
to your special care I entrust the decision
I am to make as to my future wife/husband.
You are my guiding Star!
Direct me to the person with whom
I can best cooperate in doing God's Holy Will,
with whom I can live in peace, love and harmony
in this life, and attain to eternal joys in the next.



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