Valentine’s Day was first established in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius to honor Saint Valentine.
It is not clear, however, whether the celebration was intended to honor one or more saints named Valentine.
One Saint Valentine was believed to be a Roman Priest martyred during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (268 – 270 A.D.) for aiding persecuted Christians (a crime at the time).
Claudius originally had Valentine imprisoned, but when Valentine preached the Gospel to Claudius, Claudius had him beheaded. Valentine was believed to be buried along the Via Flaminia, a road to Rome.
Other writings reference Valentine of Terni who became bishop of Terni in AD 197 and who was martyred under the reign of Roman Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, though his relics supposedly are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni. I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, but it is consistent with the general incredulity of the relics industry.
In the Middle Ages, St. Valentine’s Day became more associated with the idea of romantic love than with the saints. In modern times it became a commercialized affair, inspiring such venerable institutions as Hallmark and FTD Flowers and Ghiradelli, all of which no doubt still worship the Saints Valentine.
The Catholics gave up on Valentine’s Day as a religious holiday in 1969 when Pope Paul VI had it deleted from the General Roman Calendar, which I suppose is kind of like canceling a lunch appointment with someone you haven’t seen in years, but you know just wants to sell you something.
If you are married or engaged though I don’t suggest you take Valentine’s Day off of your calendar. Save your principled stands for Halloween. Your significant other will appreciate it, as will Hallmark, FTD and Ghiradelli. GS