By Msgr. Jorge de los Santos
St. Valentine, the patron saint of love, was born in modern-day Italy around 175 AD. He was ordained a priest and later a bishop. Famous for his evangelization efforts, miracles and healings, he lived in Roma during the 3rd century under the emperor Claudius III, who prohibited the celebration of matrimony among young people because he believed that “single men without families were better soldiers, since they are not attached to anyone.”
St. Valentine did not comply with the decree of the emperor and challenged him by marrying young couples in secret. When the emperor found out, he sent for Valentine to be incarcerated. The bishop was tortured and then decapitated in 270 AD.
The popular belief is that this is a recent feast day, but it actually dates back to the third century. However, it gained great popularity after the 14th century, taking also the name of “the Day of Love” or “the Day of Love and Friendship” in other regions.
Of course, the feast has been manipulated by marketing. It has become custom that the couple in love, whether they are boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife or simply friends, should express their love with a date or a present — and the bigger and more expensive, the better.
But St. Valentine’s Day can be a beautiful feast for us Catholics, since it presents the opportunity to celebrate the truth about love. Jesus left us a new commandment: “That you love one another; even as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). This means that the point of reference that teaches us how to love is not how I love but how Jesus loves me. He even said it to his disciples as a requisite: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). The basis of our faith is in love, for “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
As human beings, we all desire to love and to be loved. From the baby who sleeps in his mother’s arms to the elderly man who impatiently awaits a visit from his children and family, we all have an innate necessity to know that we are important, valuable and loved by someone else. Our hearts long for love, whether we know it or not. God created us with a thirst and urge to be loved so that we could search for him, who is the only fount of love.
He is essential, for he constitutes the beginning, the middle and the end for which man was created. Love will be man’s activity for all eternity. Love is the only reason that justifies the existence of each and every one of us. The entire universe was created out of love. The human act by which a person chooses and does the good for another is the supreme act of liberty. And the greatest proof of love was given to us by Jesus Christ. He gave himself up entirely and poured out his blood for us.
This is what Bishop Valentine, as a saint of the Catholic Church, inspires us to live out today in our lives.