I have to admit something.
Ready for this one?
As of this weekend I had no idea who St. Valentine was.
Sure I probably learned it eons ago in CCD or grade school. But if I did, it certainly didn't stick in my head. I guess it just turned into one of those things I accepted at face value without understanding the underlying principles.
Don't get me wrong, I've heard (and participated in) plenty of discussions about what the holiday means. Some say its a Hallmark inspired ritual. Others that it is the ultimate day of love. And a few women I know insist it was invented so that they were assured at least one day of attention from their husbands.
But I've never heard anyone discuss who this St. Valentine really was.
So, I did some research and found out, ironically, that no one is entirely sure.
Apparently there were many martyred saints of ancient Rome named Valentine. It is believed that the one who we honor on February 14 was a Roman priest who was killed for helping Christians - specifically members of the Roman army - get married. But we do not know much else about him. (That is one reason why the Church does not have an official commemoration for him on its calendar.)
At first I found the lack of information very sad. Here we have this beautiful holiday that is celebrated in many countries, and we barely know anything about Saint Valentine. How many wondrous things did he do for God that we'll never know about? What else could we have learned from him?
But, the more I reflected on everything, the happier I got. True, we may not know much about him, but St. Valentine has inspired a day that forces us to focus on God's greatest command. Love one another. And better yet - this day is celebrated by Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other faiths.
I can't think of anything that would make Jesus happier, can you?