Question from a reader:
Why doesn’t the church honor St. Valentine on Valentine’s Day?
Nothing historically verifiable at all is known about St. Valentine other than someone with that name was buried in Rome on February 14th. Legends grew, of course, including legends of a gruesome death (kind of an ancient “tongue-wagging” tactic for a church that liked drama), but none of it is thought to be true. In 1969 the Roman church removed him from the calendar of saints for “lack of evidence for existence.”
It is thought, though, that the emergence of this day as a romantic holiday was a way that the church overshadowed a Roman festival, Lupercalia, held on February 15th.
Lupercalia was the celebration of the wolf that rescued the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, and nursed and raised them (“Luper” from the Latin root “lupus” for “wolf”). For this reason the celebration was associated with child-birth and fertility, making the Church’s institution of Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 a natural Christianization of the holiday (though it became known more for love than fertility in the end).
Lupercalia honored the wild energies of creation intended for romance and reproduction. Valentine’s Day was a more modest variation of that theme…something the church could stomach.
Btw: Ever notice that the heart icons commonly used look nothing like an anatomical heart? The shape of that icon (all over everything Valentine’s Day) is thought to have been an artistic representation of voluptuous buttocks, the epitome of beauty in Roman times.
A competing thought is that the icon is derived from the fig leaves used as modesty covers in Pagan statuary.
Whatever the origin, though, it’s been used for a very long time and, despite it’s now common place and mild application, was pretty risque!
Blessed Valentine’s Day.
-icon written by Theophilia