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(LifeSiteNews) — Saint Valentine’s Day is a day known for love, romance, marriage, engagements, cards, candy, roses, and sappy television specials and movies.

Where did this holiday come from?

Where did the traditions of giving cards and candy come from?

Is this just another Catholic feast that has been secularized like Saint Patrick’s Day or Halloween?

Is there any link between modern practices and the actual traditions?

Well, like with all holidays that have morphed over time, it is a little bit of both. On the one hand, it is a Catholic holiday and should be celebrated as such, with legitimate reason to give cards and candy as was done in the past. But, on the other hand, it has been commercialized and certain elements are silly, and we lose the point.

If we look to the Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the great authors from the age of Christendom, he writes of a tradition that certain birds would begin their mating on or around February 14th every year. Thus, it was celebrated as a day when romance was exalted, couples became engaged, and other love-related things were promoted.

People would recite poems, or if they could write, they might write or read a love letter, perhaps sing songs, and offer their beloved sweet desserts and other similar things.

Now, as God would have it, February 14 is the traditional feast day of Saint Valentine.

So, the traditions that we have today of giving little romantic gifts, or celebrating love, are actually quite rooted in our traditions, and there is nothing wrong with them.

To be honest, this holiday is still a pretty wholesome holiday, even after secularization. Kids bring cards to their friends at school, people eat candies, and moms and dads find a way to go and celebrate their marriage at a restaurant with lit candles.

These are on the surface wonderful things, and if the culture ruins any aspects of them, do not think it necessary to abandon the whole thing.

Don’t give ground to the secularists, and don’t miss out on the wonderful whimsical traditions that really do bring us joy, just because big business or whoever else, has commercialized things.

So, what about Saint Valentine?

He was a priest and was martyred in Rome in the year 269 AD.

He was a good and holy priest and served Christians in Rome under the persecution of Claudius II.

This emperor may not have been the worst persecutor of Christians in the way that some others were, but he was against certain tenets of the Catholic faith, namely marriage.

His efforts to squelch the proliferation of marriage were concentrated on the army; you see, he believed that married soldiers were less effective, and therefore sought to stifle attempts for soldiers to be married. He believed that if a soldier was married, he would not be as willing to go die for the cause.

As a result, under his reign, it was forbidden for soldiers to be married. And if you know anything about how disobedient soldiers were dealt with in ancient times, they were punished severely.

However, Valentine understood that this was wrong, and that man is called to marriage or the religious life, so he performed secret marriages for Christian soldiers. This secret was found out, and to make matters worse, Catholicism was at this time still forbidden, technically speaking, even if tolerated to varying degrees.

As you can imagine, this breaking of the government’s commandments was not only used as an opportunity to arrest Valentine for legal infractions, but also to make an example out of him for being a pesky Christian.

Valentine was tortured mercilessly and underwent all the gruesome methods synonymous with brutal Roman regimes, but he loved the Lord with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength, and was thus unshakeable in his faith.

The earthly torture did not work, so he was instead offered earthly riches; a prominent role in society, money, comfort, among other things. But instead of going along with this temptation from the demon, Valentine said to himself what Christ said when asked to forgo his Passion: “Get behind me Satan!”

He was therefore beaten with clubs, and his bones were broken, blood was poured out, and eventually, it was his head that was chopped from his shoulders. You can still visit his skull, and other relics in Rome today.

Perhaps the gruesome reality of his death is not bandied about when giving out “Be Mine” cards on Valentine’s Day, and maybe that is good to keep that from little children until they can understand. However, he is the perfect saint for marriage and love, not unlike Saint John the Baptist, who would not recognize the disordered marriage of the King, and also lost his head as a result.

We can learn from Saint Valentine that we must be willing to die for what we believe.

Do any of us have such faith in our day? Do we believe in what is right to the point where we will die for it?

It is a daunting principle to think of, but perhaps we are so addicted to pleasure and comfort that if we were told by the government to give up our faith, we would in order to avoid punishment.

Think of the moral evils that happen everywhere all around us and we do nothing. I am not suggesting any violence, but I am suggesting more effort and more courage.

In our places of work, do we sit by while people blaspheme?

Do we give up our faith in order to get a pension?

We will not be taking our pensions or investments to heaven, and in fact, all our material wealth is actually quite heavy — it might even be heavy enough to drag us down to hell if we are not careful.

Not everyone will have to face real martyrdom. But, I imagine Saint Valentine did not just wake up one day and decide to be brave when he faced down those clubs being swung at his head.

No, he was brave in every moment of every day. Saints do not just come out of nowhere, they are formed in a foundry of grace like iron. If you are weak during mild persecution, you will be even weaker during harsh persecution. Do not think that you can turn on courage like a light switch. If you are cowardly now, you will likely be cowardly later.

Think of the Fatima children. Our Lady showed them the reality of sin at such a young age, and asked for courage and penance. They kept their eyes on Mary and stood strong during the persecution by the local government, at such a tender age. They obeyed God even over their parents, who although well-intentioned, were misguided. They had the faith of martyrs, and so should we.

So, when someone says to you, “will you be my valentine?”, perhaps you might say to them; “Sit down for a moment and let me explain to you what it really means to be a Valentine.”

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Kennedy Hall is an Ontario based journalist for LifeSiteNews. He is married with children and has a deep love for literature and political philosophy. He is the author of Terror of Demons: Reclaiming Traditional Catholic Masculinity, a non-fiction released by TAN books, and Lockdown with the Devil, a fiction released by Our Lady of Victory Press. He writes frequently for Crisis Magazine, Catholic Family News, and is on the editorial board at OnePeterFive.