Valentine’s Day didn’t always have roots in chocolates, cheesy poetry, and paper thin hearts.
The holiday used to mean something important, something deep, something real.
Although there are slight variations in the roots of Valentine’s Day, most scholars agree that the holiday sprouted from Lupercalia, the ancient February 15th Roman festival honoring the god Lupercus.
This pagan holiday included men running naked throughout the streets, the sacrificial slaughtering of a goat and a dog, and the whipping of barebacked women with the hides of those slaughtered animals.
This whipping was meant to promote fertility, but perhaps it was what came next that most promoted fertility.
You see, another part of Lupercalia, was the choosing of a sexual partner. Young women’s names were placed in a lottery and drawn by men from the town. The women chosen would then be the sexual partners (sex slaves?) of the men for one year.
Yes, the roots of Valentine’s Day are not the pretty, romantic fluff elementary school children associate with Valentine’s Day today.
In truth, it may have been more of the lingerie clad, lust-filled, cold-hearted holiday many of us mistake Valentine’s Day for today.
That is, until Pope Gelasius I came upon the scene.
Valentine’s Day, Pope Gelasius I, & the Hopes of Single Catholic Moms
Many Catholic single moms are at least somewhat familiar with the life of Valentine, the martyred Roman priest who married Christian couples against Claudius II’s wishes, but how many Catholics are familiar with the feast of Lupercalia and Pope Gelasius I’s contributions to Valentine’s Day?
It was Pope Gelasius I who changed the satanic, abusive tradition of young men choosing a sexual partner through lottery to the glorious tradition of having both men and women choosing a saint to emulate for a year.
Imagine the change that would have brought to Roman society?
Imagine the change that would bring to our society today?
As a single Catholic mom, researching saints to is on my to do list, but it’s a very long to do list, and researching saints is pretty far down on it, but, after reading about Pope Gelasius I’s idea, I knew it was an idea I wanted to try. A little research produced Jennifer Fulwiler’s link which makes choosing a random saint easy for me – kind of like winning a lottery!
Using Jennifer’s link, I was assigned St. Wolfgang of Ratisbon, Feast Day: October 31. Saint Wolfgang of Ratobon is the Patron Saint Against Apoplexy; Against Paralysis; Against Stomach Diseases; Against Strokes; Carpenters; Paralysed People; Stroke Victims.
I cannot wait to find out more about Saint Wolfgang, a saint I’d never heard of. I hope through his example, I will be a better person, treat those around me more lovingly, and serve my Lord God more faithfully.
Perhaps, by emulating the lives of the saints, we can enact real hope and change in the world.
Perhaps, Valentine’s Day would be less about the lust portrayed during the 800 years of Lupercalia and today.
Perhaps, Valentine’s Day would be less about getting lucky lotteries and the giving away of paper thin hearts.
Perhaps Valentine’s Day would be more about the true Love and Light and Grace that comes only from God.
And perhaps that is what single Catholic moms (and single Catholic Dads and Single Christian moms and dads and a whole slew of other people all over the world) are really looking for.
While we definitely want that Valentine’s Day passion, those of us who have survived divorce, abandonment, and betrayal, know that we come closer to celebrating a truly God-Blessed, Christian marriage, as strong and wonderful as those Saint Valentine was willing to die for, when we emulate the lives of the saints in our own lives.
And that is something Catholic single moms and dads can all do while waiting for their special valentine.
To read more about the Catholic holiday of Valentine’s Day or Lupercalia, please click here.
If you choose a saint throughout the Saint Generator, or through another method, please tell us what saint you will be emulating this year! I’d love to know! 🙂