Special masses, floral offerings, and novena prayers are expected to be offered in several Catholic churches in the country and in many parts of the world today, February 14, in honor of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers.
Pre-pandemic, mass weddings and renewal of marriage vows are common practices observed by local government units in the country on Valentine’s Day. The observance of the Feast of St. Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I on Feb. 14, 496 A.D. in memory of a kind-hearted Roman priest who was arrested, clubbed, and eventually, beheaded for his pro-love ministry.
Saint Valentine married soldiers who were forbidden to marry, ministered to Christians, and gave aid to martyrs in prison. He refused to renounce his faith during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, a time when Christians were severely persecuted and punished. According to stories, St. Valentine, while still in jail, was able to convert his jailer to Christianity after he restored the eyesight of the latter’s blind daughter.
Before St. Valentine was beheaded on Feb. 14, 269, he wrote a farewell note to her and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” The well-loved priest was buried at the Flaminian Way in Rome, Italy, where a basilica was built in his honor and memory.
Relics of St. Valentine were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV”.
His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.
The other relics of the saint were taken to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, which continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love. His association with love and romance supports the belief that during the month of February, birds choose their mates, hence, St. Valentine’s association with love birds and doves, as well as the color red, which is both the symbol of martyrdom and love.