Let me take this occasion to wish gentle reader a happy and reverent usus antiquior Valentine. The indubitable patron of star-crossed lovers, entreated in prayer to find help in uncrossing them, should be of particular interest to those seeking reasonable annulments, yet I’ve never heard him mentioned in that connexion. That the world now puts many obstacles in the way of true love — especially that between a man and a woman — could go without saying. By far the largest, to my mind, are easily available contraception and divorce.

Valentine was a third-century priest and martyr at Rome. A basilica was raised over his tomb beside the catacombs at the second mile of the Flaminian Way along the feet of the Parioli hills, by Pope Julius I in the fourth century. (Today, the site is well within and under the Roman suburbs.) This, according to the archaeologists, was repeatedly enlarged through subsequent centuries, and by the eleventh a convent and cloister was attached. It went into decline, but the ruins were still quite visible in early modernity, before they were washed out by floods (caused by modern human idiocy). That it was verily a memorial to Saint Valentine is attested from fragments of verses once chiselled into the basilica itself, celebrating Valentine by name.

No problem with this, so far, and there should never have been a problem. Valentine, who came from Terni in southern Umbria, was martyred at Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus, “the Cruel.” He was clubbed then beheaded for defying emperor’s orders, then justifying his action by Christ. Legend suggests there was a ban on marriages, which the psychopathic ruler had decreed because he thought his troops were being cissified by attachment to their wives and families. Valentine’s defiance took the form of marrying many Christian couples secretly. In his final incarceration he is said to have passed a last note to the gaoler’s daughter, whom he had converted (along with her father), hence: “From your Valentine.” This may be interpreted according to the holiness of the reader’s imagination. The mediaeval adumbrations were chaste; the post-modern mind, crippled by narcissism and pornography, seems incapable of imagining that any “love between two persons” might exist without at least some attempt at copulation.

The cult of Valentine spread both from Rome, and from his native Terni. The asinine notion that this indicated two Saint Valentines first surfaced in the nineteenth century. It was championed by liberal scholars in the twentieth, and other Valentines were solicited through the historical record as far afield as northern Africa. By the 1960s, we had scholars arguing that, on the contrary, there had been no Saint Valentine, only some otherwise nondescript guy who must have paid for the construction of the basilica, and been honoured as the modern rich are, when they endow some wing of a hospital or whatever.

This was the sort of mental garbage in circulation about the time Annibale Bugnini (who incidentally came from Terni himself), decided to suppress the Commemoration of Saint Valentine. Veneration by millions of the faithful over seventeen centuries had now been clouded with uncertainties by a few godless pointy-heads. In an act of barbaric desecration, the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius was shunted from July 7th, to “occupy” February 14th, with the usual carnage following all down the line. And that is why gentle reader must turn from his Novus Ordo to his Vetus Ordo missal to begin recovering his Catholic heritage: on this as on the other three hundred and sixty-five possible days of the year.

Had I world enough or time, today, I would ramble into a broad and rather amateur review of at least six modern schools of hagiography which, since the later nineteenth century, have vied to replace that attested through the many centuries of Catholic practice. (A seventh seems to be under construction, on the fly, by our current Holy Father.) To keep it very short, the time-honoured practice was to consider the proposed saint’s earthly life in the light of Christ’s, and having found an inspiring cause, to test it by the evidence of miracles both in and after that life. This last was crucial, for the Universal Church does not create but only recognizes a Saint; invariably the devotees of the Saint have recognized him first, and the last word is from Heaven. Let me use the example of John Henry Newman, who to my mind was certainly a saint, but whom Rome has not yet canonized. (He was however beatified at Birmingham by my beloved Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, who from the depth of his own learning and holiness was well-placed to appreciate Newman’s cause.)

As usual in modernity, faith in Christ has been replaced by reliance on transient “scientific research.” This latter discounts or eliminates everything for which hard material evidence is lacking, and thus plays to the extreme self-regard of today’s credentialled intellectual — who assumes himself, in defiance of overwhelming contrary evidence, to know better than the men of previous centuries who made decisions based on evidence then freely available.

Meanwhile “Valentine’s Day” is now under siege from the opposite direction, for as I discover on a quick Internet search it is judged highly politically incorrect, by the kind of trolls who contrive to impose their own crassly irreligious tenets upon our children. But they at least have faith that Valentine was a religious figure, commanding popular adoration, so God bless them even as we strive to root them out of our public life.


It is my parents’ wedding anniversary today: curiously the sudden resolution of their own little fix as “star-crossed lovers,” in 1948. (It was “pure chance” that their opportunity occurred on Valentine’s Day.) Both are now dead, but if an Ave were to be said for them by any reader, I believe Saint Valentine would carry it to them.