February 14th, 2011
To start with, the Roman martyrologies have listed seven Valentines as possible identities for the saint. It seems to have been a popular name for martyrs, but little is known about them.
So little is known about him that Valentine was removed from the calendar of feast days in 1969 as a move to get rid of saints with unlikely origins. St. Cyril and St. Methodius were given that day in Valentine's stead.
By the Church's admission, all that's known of Valentine is that his name was Valentine and that he was buried on a road on February 14th.
Valentine did not appear in the earliest listing of martyrs. Instead, he was added by Pope Gelasius I nearly 150 years after that listing in 496. Gelasius even said in the proclamation that his name was revered by men, but his acts were known only to God.
The modern story -- and indeed, the first story about him -- appeared in Legenda Auria (The Golden Legend) compiled around 1250. The story given was that he argued with Claudius II who attempted to persuade him to become a pagan. Since he wouldn't become a pagan, he was executed. Purportedly, he performed the miracle of restoring sight to his jailer's daughter. It was at this time that he had written the first Valentine.
There is no historical basis for this, nor is there an earlier mention of this story.
Now -- as it happens -- I was born on February 14th. In spite of this legitimate claim to this day, ignorant people continue to claim it as Valentine's day. There's no reason to persist in this falsehood. Why continue to dress it as anything but a falsehood?
There's a funny story in my being born -- I was the youngest of three and I am a full seven and nine years younger than my sisters.
Why was there such a gap? My mother adored her grandfather and wanted a boy to name after him. She heard a tale that after seven years, your "body chemistry" -- whatever that means -- changes. It's always irked me that I provided evidence that a silly wives tale was true by having been a boy.
Friends, I say to you: Let today be the day you remove a silly myth from your life. Devote today to the rejection of falsehoods such that we may all prosper.
As I've become fond of saying: accept that this day belongs not to a fictional saint, but to a real one. If you must place decorations, place them in my honor and join me in the fight for science and reason.
Written this St. Phil's day, 2011.
Happy St. Phil's day to you too, Plo.
I almost caught your show last night, but I'm still adjusting from East Coast time.