Franciscan Spirit Blog

Who Was St. Valentine?

Each year on February 14, we peruse the store shelves for the perfect gift or card for a loved one. According to Hallmark, more than 163 million cards—not including packaged kids’ valentines—are exchanged. And it’s not just an American phenomenon. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Italy and Denmark.

But why? How did this holiday of love and romance originate and, more importantly, how did St. Valentine become involved? The answers to those questions are not easy ones. Valentine’s Day is a holiday shrouded in mystery and legend.

The origins of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman fertility festival Lupercalia, which was celebrated on February 15. During the festival, young women would place their names in a large urn.

The young men would draw a name from the urn and then be romantically linked with that young woman for the following year. Still other legends cite the fact that February 14 marked the date when birds began mating.

Will the Real St. Valentine Please Stand Up?

The practice of writing letters has been around for a long time. In fact, the Bible is filled with letters—to the Romans, the Corinthians, Timothy, among others.

Letters can be used to inform, scold, praise, entertain or endear. The U.S. bishops write letters to presidents, policymakers and others to help make the Church teachings and positions known. Individual bishops write letters, too, to their people to inform and encourage them. People write letters to members of Congress to weigh in on certain legislative issues. When a network announces it will be canceling a popular television program, what is often the first course of action? A letter-writing campaign.

Letters can also serve as lifelines for loved ones separated by distance, war, employment and many other circumstances. Or they can help bridge a gap between people who may be fighting or are estranged, and just aren’t ready to speak face-to-face.

Spread a Little Love

Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to let the people in your life know how much you love and care about them. Here are some ways you can express your love on this special day:

Use heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut out your kids’ sandwiches for lunch. Draw hearts or place heart stickers on their lunch bags. And don’t forget to add a note telling them how much you love them and why. You can also do the same thing for your husband or wife.

One year I surprised my husband on Valentine’s Day by filling his car with red balloons. I attached a note to each of the balloons highlighting something I love about him.

Have the kids help you bake heart-shaped cookies and deliver them to grandparents, neighbors, residents of a nursing home or anyone else you think might enjoy receiving a treat.

Focus on the true meaning of Valentine’s Day. Aside from the cards, gifts, etc., the purpose of the day is to let those we care about know we love them. This Valentine’s Day, tell family members and friends just how much they truly mean to you.

For Teens: You Are Loved

The subject of love is a major part of the teenage years.

Sometimes teenagers tend to think of love in its narrowest sense, romantic love. But there are lots of different types of love and ways to express that love. For instance, you can love someone as a friend, but not be romantically in love with him or her.

On Valentine’s Day, recognize all the different people you love in your life. Let them know, somehow, what they mean to you, or you can do something special for them. Perhaps you could stick a note in your friend’s locker at school saying how much you appreciate that he or she is always there for you. Leave your mom or dad a note saying how much you love them. Or recognize someone who helped you a lot in the last 12 months.

Although we should let our friends and family know how much we love them every day, Valentine’s Day provides a great opportunity to let them know you care.

For Kids: Struck by Cupid

Do you like surprises? Well then, how about playing Cupid and surprising people with treats? Cupid was the Roman god of love and is one of the most recognizable symbols of Valentine’s Day. Here’s how you can play Cupid:

Cut out hearts from red or pink construction paper. Either print out the following verse on your computer and attach it to the heart or write the following verse on the heart:

Cupid stopped by to let you know that someone cares about you and thinks you’re very special. Help Cupid by secretly letting two special people know how much they mean to you.

Don’t forget to attach a bag of treats to the heart. Ask your mom, dad or older brother/sister to take you to the homes of friends and family members you would like Cupid to visit. At each house, take the hearts and sneak up to the doors of your friends and families. Attach the heart to their door with tape.

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