St. Valentine of Terni (a city also known as Interamna) was a young noble who converted to Christianity. He became a bishop at a young age, and died a martyr at the age of 97. Born in Terni in 176, he was martyred in Rome on February 14, 273.
He was persecuted for having encouraged marriages between Romans and Christians.
During his trial he discussed his faith with his judge. The judge Asterius put his Faith to the test. The judge presented Valentine with his blind daughter, who was healed. Asterius destroyed the idols in his house and had his whole family and household of 44 members baptized. He then freed all Christian inmates under his charge.
Valentine was arrested again for attempting to convert the heathen. He was tortured and martyred.
From the Sermons of St Austin, Bishop of Hippo:
“The illustrious day whereon the blessed Martyr Valentin conquered, doth this day come round to us again and as the Church doth rejoice with him in his glory, so doth she set before us his footsteps to be followed. For if we suffer, we shall also reign with him. In his glorious battle we have two things chiefly to consider the hardened cruelty of the tormentor, and the unconquered patience of the Martyr the cruelty of the tormentor, that we may abhor it; the patience of the Martyr, that we may imitate it. Hear what the Psalmist saith, complaining against sin: “Fret not thyself because of the evil-doers, for they shall soon dry up like the grass.” But touching the patience which is to be shown against the evil-doers, hear the word wherewith the Apostle moveth us Ye have need of patience, that ye may receive the promise.”
Archaeologists have unearthed both Roman catacombs and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.
The connection between the secular celebrations and his day probably have two contributing factors.
St. Valentine’s feast day coincides with the Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival dedicated to fertility, which Pope Gelasius abolished in 496.
This connection also got a boost in the Middle Ages when it was believed that birds paired couples half way through the second month of the year.
In Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, and young people.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who keep the birthday of thy blessed Martyr Valentine may be delivered by his prayers from all the ills that hang over us.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.