By Christina Hermoso
As the nation marks Valentine’s Day on Wednesday, Roman Catholics are reminded to honor the memory of the revered patron saint of lovers – Saint Valentine (San Valentin).
This year’s feast of the popular saint coincides with the Church’s observance of Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the season of Lent.
Special masses, floral offerings, and prayers will be offered in several Catholic churches in the country and in many parts of the world in memory of the holy priest and illustrious Roman martyr. In the country, mass weddings and renewal of marriage vows are traditional practices held on Valentine’s Day.
In Dublin, Ireland, the sacred relics of St. Valentine, a small vessel tinged with his blood in a wooden case, will be carried in a solemn procession to be followed by a special mass dedicated to young people and lovers.
The observance of St. Valentine’s feast was established by Pope Gelasius I on Feb. 14, 496 A.D. in memory of a kind-hearted Roman priest who was arrested, clubbed, and eventually, beheaded for marrying soldiers who were forbidden to marry, ministering to Christians, giving aid to martyrs in prison, and for refusing to renounce his faith during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, a time when Christians were severely persecuted.
According to accounts, St. Valentine, while still in jail, was able to convert his jailer to Christianity after he restored the eyesight of his blind daughter. Before St. Valentine was beheaded on Feb. 14, 269, he wrote a farewell note to her and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” He was buried at the Flaminian Way in Rome, Italy, where a basilica was built in his honor and memory.
His association with love and romance supports the belief that during the month of February, birds choose their mates, hence, St. Valentine’s association with love birds and doves, as well as the color red, which is both the symbol of martyrdom and love.