I do imagine any one of the three St. Valentines of the first centuries of the Church would be shocked to know that this day had become the holiday dedicated to romantic love ~ in their name. And, while the whole Cupid bit and the pink hearts would undoubtedly cause some raised eyebrows amongst the group of them watching us from the Heavenly Court (coffee cups in hand), I imagine that the concept of the day wouldn't upset them too much. Love, true love, in its pure form of Christian charity, in the commitment between a husband and wife, or even in the hopes of young people looking for mates is never a bad thing.
It was the hope of the Church in its early days to supplant pagan practices, introducing Catholic feasts and customs which would change evil habits into good ones. It may be that the love-connection to St. Valentine's Day resulted from a desire to replace the pagan celebration of Lupercalia which in ancient days occured around February 14th. Unfortunately, it's true that most do not connect the lives of the saints with this feast day (Alas!), but it's also probably true that the Church did intend for this feast day to maintain an innocent flavor of love and courtship.
And, though none of the St. Valentine's stories appears to have any verified story involving young love or matchmaking, the pairing of the love theme with these men is not really so incongruous. All three of the Valentines whose legends survived the centuries were martyrs. And, Heaven knows, nobody understands true love like the martyrs. Their love imitates Christ's most closely in its completeness. And while St. Raphael is the saint who owns the distinction of being the heavenly matchmaker, any one of the St. Valentines, as a model of the most perfect love, serves just as well as a patron for earthly love. The saints are not exclusive that way. St. Raphael, the matchmaking patron, won't mind a bit, to be sure, if we speak to St. Valentine today ~ to pray for loved ones, to love our loved ones better, or to seek a match if we haven't got one already. And, there is no question that St. Valentine (any one or all of three!) will do what he can for us!
Prayer to St Valentine
O glorious advocate and protector,
look with pity upon our wants,
hear our requests,
attend to our prayers,
relieve by your intercession the miseries
under which we labour,
and obtain for us the divine blessing,
that we may be found worthy to join you
in praising the Almighty for all
eternity: through the merits of
Our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Lazy Blogger's repost from 2009 (29 posts to go...)Amen.