On the western calendar of saints, February 14 is traditionally the feast of St. Valentine of Rome. The eastern calendar, which is followed by most of the Orthodox Church, celebrates St. Valentine of Rome on July 6.
According to the hagiographic tradition, St. Valentine was a priest, renowned for his mercy to the poor and to those suffering or in need. However, most celebrations of St. Valentine, especially in Western countries associate the saint with romantic love and marriage.
There is some traditional basis for this connection to love and marriage, but not because he was some sort of Cupid. Rather, as the story goes, during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, it was declared that men couldn't marry before completing their military obligations. This was because recently married men could use their marriage as an excuse to avoid serving. At that time, there was a shortage of soldiers, and this loophole hindered Claudius's war effort. Thus, in order to further imperial prerogative, it was declared that people should give love the backseat to civics.
Valentine, as was typical for Christians of his time, cared little for the ambitions of Emperors, and so he began to marry couples in secret. By defending marriage, Valentine also subverted the war effort and helped young families resist the draft. For his treason and sedition, Valentine was executed.
His martyric witness to the Gospel was that we should ultimately look to the bonds between people to build societies, not the force of arms.
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