By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
On St. Valentine’s Day, over 10,000 couples gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the huge Vatican City plaza surrounded by Rome. The special gathering at the Catholic Church’s headquarters was a historic one, as Pope Francis spoke to the massive crowd about the beauty of faithful relationships and marriage.
It was the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day, too, since the holy priest the holiday’s named after was executed in Rome on February 14, 278 A.D., for performing outlawed marriages. Back then, Rome was ruled by Claudius the Cruel, and he wanted men to join the army without feeling attached to their wives and families. So, he banned all marriages and engagements! Valentine bravely defied the law and died for his beliefs. Because of his heroic death, he was looked up to by early Christians as a saint.
However, it wasn’t until 18th-century England that the religious holiday became associated with love, as Geoffrey Chaucer (known as the Father of English literature) wrote a poem in which he said, “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” By the 1850s, tens of thousands of people were mailing Valentine’s Day cards to each other in the US and UK.
On Friday, the Pope preached, “Today, many people are afraid to make lasting choices. Making choices that last your whole life seems impossible but it can be done.” He talked about how much effort it takes to make a loving relationship work, explaining, “We all know the perfect family does not exist. The perfect husband does not exist and the perfect wife does not exist.” Then, he joked, “Let’s not even talk about perfect mothers-in-law.”
Images courtesy of Catholic News Service on YouTube.