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The Roman Martyrology (the official martyrology of the Catholic Church) lists two Valentines for February 14. The story of Valentine, the Roman priest, dates to AD 270. He was well known for the holy life he lived. Intrigued by his fame, the emperor invited him to the palace and offered him his friendship if he would adore the gods. Valentine said it was a waste of time, since only Jesus Christ brought true hope and the promise of a better world. Although this impressed the emperor, he still entrusted him to a Roman nobleman with orders to convert Valentine.

Now, the nobleman had a daughter who had been blind since birth. Valentine prayed over her and she regained her sight; the nobleman converted to Christianity. When the emperor heard about the conversion, he condemned Valentine to death by beheading. The execution took place on the Via Flaminia in Rome. Valentine was buried nearby, and a church was built there in his honor.

The story of Valentine, Bishop of Terni, took place around AD 340. He was invited to Rome by Crato, a teacher of Greek and Latin. Crato’s son suffered from a physical deformity, and no doctor was able to heal him. Crato promised Valentine half his possessions if he healed his son. Valentine explained it would not be his worthless possessions that healed him, but his faith in the one, true God. Valentine prayed over the boy, and he was healed. Crato and his family were baptized by the bishop, along with three Greek students, one of which was the son of the Prefect of Rome. Devastated by his son’s conversion, the Prefect had Valentine arrested and decapitated on the Via Flaminia in Rome. This was done at night to avoid reaction from the growing number of Christians in the city. The three students carried the body of Valentine to Terni and buried him just outside the city. They were arrested and, before they could be freed, were also beheaded. These new martyrs were buried with Valentine in his tomb. The many connections between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, including the places of their martyrdom and burial, lead us to believe they are one and the same person.

The tradition of Valentine being patron saint of lovers has its origins in one of Chaucer’s early English texts, where birds start mating on Valentine’s Day. Since mid-February is when nature begins to shake its winter sluggishness, St. Valentine has become the saint who announces the coming spring
and is sometimes depicted holding the sun in his hand.