The story of Saint Valentine, singular or plural, is one that is not likely to be told in Catholic universities, at least the federally subsidized ones. This year, for the first time in my memory, Valentine’s Day occurs on Ash Wednesday.
In a way, it is appropo, because all of the saints who bear the name Valentine made the ultimate sacrifice. “In the early martyrologies, three different St. Valentines are mentioned, all sharing Feb. 14 for a feast day,” according to the Catholic Education Resource Center. “Unfortunately, the historical record is sparse.”
“The first St. Valentine was a priest and physician in Rome. He along with St. Marius and his family comforted the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II, the Goth. Eventually, St. Valentine was also arrested, condemned to death for his faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded on Feb. 14, AD 270. He was buried on the Flaminian Way. Later, Pope Julius I (333-356) built a basilica at the site which preserved St. Valentine’s tomb. Archeological digs in the 1500s and 1800s have found evidence of the tomb of St. Valentine. However, in the thirteenth century, his relics were transferred to the Church of Saint Praxedes near the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where they remain today. Also, a small church was built near the Flaminian Gate of Rome which is now known as the Porta del Popolo but was called in the 12th century ‘the Gate of St. Valentine,’ as noted by the early British historian William Somerset (also known as William of Malmesbury, d. 1143), who ranks after St. Bede in authority.
“The second St. Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (now Terni, located about 60 miles from Rome). Under the orders of Prefect Placidus, he too was arrested, scourged, and decapitated, again suffering persecution during the time of Emperor Claudius II.
“The third St. Valentine suffered martyrdom in Africa with several companions. However, nothing further is known about this saint. In all, these men, each named St. Valentine, showed heroic love for the Lord and His Church.”