By Sister Kathleen M. Lehner, MHSH
Who was St. Valentine? When did he live? Why do we honor him?
The exact person we honor on February 14, St. Valentine, is hidden in the obscurities of the first three centuries of Church history. The feast may be in honor of a priest, Valentine, who was known to counsel and marry young couples. This was at the time when Roman law persecuted Christians, so Valentine eventually incurred the wrath of Emperor Claudius II and was imprisoned. When Valentine turned his attention to converting the Emperor himself, Claudius had him put to death.
The feast may also be in honor of several other martyrs, all named Valentine, or Valentina, the feminine version of the name, which is derived from the Latin “valens,” meaning “worthy” or “courageous.”
From this little piece of history we can glean something about St. Valentine and the general atmosphere in which all our early Christian ancestors lived. Many people carried the name Valentine or Valentina. No doubt it was to inspire them to face courageously the dangers of being Christian in the Roman Empire at that time.
The custom of giving children significant names has been prevalent all through history. Families like to repeat names from generation to generation, tying generations together and giving children inspiring forebears. This is also the idea behind giving a saint’s name at Baptism and Confirmation. Hopefully, the named saint will become an inspiration to the child for life.
What about your name? Is it from our list of Christian ancestors? Or a revered family forebear? You may have more than one name to live up to. Perhaps you also chose a favorite saint’s name for your Confirmation name; or you took the name of a friend or relative because you admired her or him and wanted to model yourself after that person.
Saints and significant people can play an important role in helping us to develop our potential. This is another way we serve one another in the Mystical Body to which we belong. Spend some time reflecting on how you can become the quality person your name calls you to be.