Dear Mr. Clemens,

I have been researching love and St. Valentine’s day for a work in progress and came across this somewhat erudite opinion piece. I thought your readers might find intriguing, this writer’s opinions about St. Valentine and the traditions we associate with him. I do hope the Tattler’s audience will let you know what they think. The opinion article begins below.

Thank you very much for the service you provide to our community. Lady C.

Two things struck me as I did research for this piece intended to be about St. Valentine’s day, but which turned out to be about much more. One amazing item is that Valentine was sentenced to die by beating, stoning, and finally decapitation, because he performed marriage ceremonies in defiance of an edict against marriages by Roman Emperor Claudius the second.This according to Father O’Grady’s article about the Real St. Valentine

The other compelling item is that the lives of Christian saints were first recorded by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275—later ‘Englished’ by William Caxton in 1483—in a book called the Golden Legend or Legenda Aurea. It is not so much this book that is remarkable in relation to Valentine’s Day, but the reason the book was produced. The prologue exclaims in a variety of ways that the Archbishop produced the book to avoid the perils of idleness. “THE holy and blessed Doctor S. Jerome saith this authority: Do alway some good work, to the end that the devil find thee not idle. And the holy Doctor S. Austin saith in the book of the labour of monks that, no man strong or mighty to labour ought to be idle.”

How many of us actually associate labor, or work, with today’s version of St. Valentine’s day? Do gardening, chores, office work, teaching, investigation or any other form of work leap immediately to mind when Valentine’s Day is mentioned? Or do you perhaps imagine lolling on a romantic beach, relaxed dining in a five-star restaurant where customers do nothing more than lift a finger to get their smallest desire fulfilled immediately, or perhaps simply spending hours on end making love—where your greatest task is to bring your partner pleasure? These are traditional image of Valentine’s Day, images not normally associated with work.

For what reason(s) did that medieval archbishop take such great effort to emphasize that idleness is perilously close to sin? In part, I suspect, Jacobus de Voragine prefaced his ‘work’ on saints’ lives with this warning, because he saw work as an expression of Love—Love in the sense of God’s love for man and when we are at our best, our own love for our fellow man. So, it may have been St. Valentine’s sacrifice that eventually became the reason for associating him with the kind of idleness we see today as passion and devotion, even carnal loving.

Valentine died not because of his own love for a woman, but as Father O’Gara says [and I paraphrase] there comes a time when he [Valentine] had to lay down his life upon the line for what he believed. “And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that—even to the point of death.” Indeed, every faith that I know of contains some version of ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for another. [Paraphrased from John 15:13, King James version.]

What then does all of this talk of sacrifice and keeping busy mean for those of us who love romance, and often idle away hours with reading romance novels?

First of all, I do not believe that reading romance is idle in any way. I prefer to think of my recreational reading is purposeful. It helps me to learn new things. It keeps my mind active and my imagination and my faith healthy. This is so because romance novels are most often stories of sacrifice. Whether the sacrifice is a life, a hope, a dream, a love or some other thing highly valued by readers, authors and characters does not at all diminish the fact of a sacrifice being made for love.

Valentine sacrificed his life so that lovers could marry in the church of their choosing. Romeo and Juliet gave their lives for each other. Readers of romance sacrifice hours of their time to gain the benefits of reading our favorite kinds of stories. Almost everything of value comes at some cost, and I’m not writing about the exchange of money and goods. The prices paid in life and in romance novels are much greater than a few coins or a little cash. This is why romance is celebrated on St. Valentine’s Day, because of all that has been given to make love between two people possible. To recognize not simply the pleasures of physical love, but the worth of the emotional give and take that each person in a relationship shares.

This is what I believe. I’d be interested in your thoughts about Valentine’s Day and how it came to be what it is today, so please leave a comment below.

About Rue Allyn: Hi, I’m Rue Allyn, I write heart melting romance novels. Books about characters and adventures in which love triumphs at the darkest moment. The kind of hopeful, steal-your-breath romance that melts a reader’s heart. The type of book I like to read. Hope you will too.