Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

February 13, 2008

St. Valentine and the Meaning of the Day

February 14 is a greeting card holiday of "love" associated with a Christian saint, St. Valentine. How this connection was ever made is the subject of many questionable tales and lore.

First of all, there are many St. Valentines and two are mentioned as being martyred for their faith on this date. One Valentine died in Rome, the other about sixty miles from Rome in Interamna. There is little information about either man's life, though tradition has it that the Roman Valentine was a priest who was persecuted by the emperor Claudius the Goth in about the year 269.

More interesting is how this day became a day of courtship and romance, eventually marked by the exchanging of love notes or "Valentines." English literature mentions that around the "time of St. Valentine's Day" birds began to pair, the first sign of spring.

The occasion is a good time in the school year to help the students take stock of their own friendships, sexual feelings, and the true meaning of love. So often teenagers confuse infatuation with love. Infatuation describes any kind of relationship that includes sexual attraction or sexual feelings. A person can be infatuated with many different people, including people he or she doesn't even know well or know at all. Infatuations come and go.

Love is different. Love is a feeling that is long-lasting. It involves other feelings like commitment, compassion, care, truest, respect, and sacrifice. Most teenagers will already know this because they have been loved and have loved others, especially their parents and other family members.

Romantic love combines the sexual feelings associated with infatuation with the deep and true commitment for another that can happen only after a person really gets to know another person well.

Everyone—adults, teens, and children alike—can enjoy sending cards and notes to special friends and people they care about on Valentine's Day. They should just make sure that the notes and messages they send honestly express what they want to say and what they believe.

Finally, encourage your students to think about sending a card or note to someone they know who might not otherwise get a Valentine. Also, this is the perfect holiday to express love for teens to express love for people who really do love them: parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters.

Additional Lessons
Present a more detailed lesson on the Church's teaching on sexuality and committed romantic love in the context of marriage. Two resources that can offer support are Sex and the Teenager: Choices and Decisions and Marriage and Holy Orders: Your Call to Love and Serve.
Discuss how of the virtues of faith, hope, and love, only love remains unto eternity. Readand share 1 Corinthians 13:1–13.
Using a biography on the lives of saints, present any other information or folklore on St. Valentine.

Discussion Questions
1. What is your favorite Valentine card you have ever received or given?
2. Infatuations come and go. Cite an example from your own life or the life of someone you know that supports this statement.
3. Why do you think true love always includes lasting commitment?

Project Idea
Divide the participants into small groups of four or five. Have them write letters of affirmation to each person in their group, addressing them by name and affirming their talents and gifts.

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