With Valentine’s Day just in the rear view mirror, I finally found the answer to a question that has been bothering me: Why is it no longer called “St. Valentine’s Day”? When I was a kid, it was always referred to as “St. Valentine’s Day” since February 14th is his feast day. Now it is simply “Valentine’s Day.”
Turns out, once a saint, not always a saint! These “official” saints and their feast days are decided, of course, by the Catholic church. We Protestants have a much broader umbrella by which we classify someone a “saint.” Notwithstanding, at the Second Vatican Council in 1962 all of the Catholic saints were reviewed and, believe it or not, Saint Valentine didn’t make the cut!
To be a Catholic saint involves no small amount of vetting. The first requirement is, unfortunately, your death. Being alive means you’re out of luck. After your demise, you need to be nominated for sainthood and your life is thoroughly examined for evidence of holiness and “heroic virtue.” You need to be responsible for two verifiable miracles to be canonized (only one to be beatified).
Valentine only met the first requirement. There is no question that he is dead. After that, it got confusing. There was more than one Christian leader in the Roman Empire named Valentine and neither of their stories could be confirmed. The most popular (but apparently unverifiable) story is that he was a physician and bishop who married young Roman couples despite a ban on doing so. He was jailed under Roman persecution of the church and shortly before his execution on February 14th, he cured a jailer’s daughter of blindness and sent her a letter signed “From your Valentine.”
But these stories didn’t hold up to the holy magnifying glass of the Second Vatican Council. And, in the absence of any verifiable miracles, Valentine was stripped of his sainthood and two other saints whose stories could be better corroborated, had their feast days placed on February 14th.
Not surprisingly, I have a hard time with this way of defining who is a saint; starting with that terminal requirement of death. I think saints are all around us every day; those who are alive and those who have gone before us. Perfection isn’t a requirement but living a life that others can emulate, learn from and aspire to is.
The point being, everyone is capable of being a saint in the here and now! You simply have to take your faith seriously and let it be known that your good works and your own spiritual growth are the result of your faith in God through Jesus Christ.
Being a saint (yes, with a small “s”) doesn’t mean that you have “arrived” at some mystical state of complete unity with the divine. Saints are human which means they have faults and imperfections and struggle with what it means to be here in this life. What sets them apart is an often unspoken, contagious level of trust in God that is woven into their journey. (This is one reason that I have often encountered children who fit this bill.)
In any case, I’d sign a petition to re-instate poor Valentine to his former status as a saint. Real or folklore, his stories are inspiring and give examples of extreme courage in horrific circumstances. His legacy is one of love, after all, and how can you argue with that!
To me it will always be “St. Valentine’s Day”!