Chaste Valentine

There is no conflict between “Valentine’s Day” and Ash Wednesday, as gentle reader might discern, while consulting my piece on Valentine, from nine years ago:


Valentine was a IIIrd-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 IVth century. (Today, the site is well within and under the Roman suburbs.) This, say archaeologists, was repeatedly enlarged through subsequent centuries, and by the XIth 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 were verily a memorial to Saint Valentine was attested by fragments of verses chiselled into the basilica itself.

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 XIXth century. It was championed by liberal scholars in the XXth, and other Valentines were solicited through the historical record as far afield as northern Africa. By the 1960s, we had liberals 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 carnage following down the line. And that is why thoughtful reader must turn from his Novus Ordo to his Vetus Ordo missal to begin recovering his Catholic heritage: on this, as on the other days of the year.

Had I world enough or time, I would ramble over at least six modern schools of hagiography that, since the later XIXth century, have vied to replace that attested through the many earlier centuries of Catholic practice. (A seventh seems to be under construction, on the fly, by our current Holy Father.) The time-honoured practice had been to consider the proposed saint’s earthly life in the light of Christ’s, and to test it by the evidence of miracles both in and after. 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.

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 assuages the extreme self-regard of today’s credentialed intellectuals — who assume themselves, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to know better than the men of previous centuries, who saw evidence then freely available.