St. Valentine

Confusion exists about who St. Valentine was because there have been about a dozen St. Valentines, plus a pope named Valentine. “Valentinus” was a popular name between the second and eighth centuries (meaning worthy, strong, powerful), and several martyrs over the centuries have carried this name. 

The Valentine we celebrate on February 14th actually may be two of these Valentines, one being a real person who died around 270 C.E. and who Pope Gelasius I, in 496 C.E., referred to as a martyr, his acts as “being known only to God.” The other possibility is that Valentine was a priest, beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed (thus allowing the young groom to escape conscription into the Roman army). 

He has become the patron saint of many things. People call on him to watch over young lovers, but also to intervene with epileptics, beekeepers, travelers, and those who faint or have the plague. Appropriately, he’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages.

In his Rule, Benedict never addresses romantic love, but in the prologue to the Rule, he wrote that, as we advance in faith, our hearts expand and “we run the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.” In his chapter on the tools of good works, he enjoins his monks to love their enemies and show mutual obedience to each other in love. Love permeates Benedict’s instruction on leadership and discipline. Most of all, he instructs his monks to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”

He brought me to the banqueting house, and his intention toward me was love. (Song of Songs 2:4) 

Published by Stephen Isaacson

Stephen Isaacson is Prior of the Cornerstone Community, a lay Benedictine group within Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. He has served in many other roles in the Cathedral and is currently the Co-coordinator of Outreach Ministries at the Cathedral. Prior to his involvement with Outreach or the Cornerstone Community, Steve was Professor of Special Education at Portland State University, where he also served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education. During his career in academia, he authored a number of juried publications and instructional materials.

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