Over the past 24 hours, Web interest in Saint Valentine has soared like an errant arrow. Searches on Yahoo! for "saint valentine" and "who was saint valentine" each spiked over 300 percent.
So who was St. Valentine? Was he a great lover a la Casanova? Was he even a real person? According to Catholic Online, St. Valentine was very real, but he probably wasn't a smooth operator with the ladies.
"Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II." For his trouble, Valentine was beaten and then executed after authorities were unable to get him to renounce his faith. His death occurred on February 14.
As with many events that occurred so long ago, other theories abound. Indeed, there were several different Valentines, and nobody is 100 percent sure which one was which. Some believe he was a priest, others believe he was a bishop, some believe he was a combination of the two, and still others believe he was someone else entirely. All that said, there is little doubt among experts that Valentine did exist in one form or another.
As for how the holiday came to represent love and kisses, there are few different theories for that as well. According to blog specializing in saints, "some believe the Romans had a mid-February custom where boys drew the names of girls in honour of the sex and fertility goddess, Februata Juno." Others feel the custom of greetings "stems from the belief that birds begin to pair on that date."
There are a slew of related searches on everything from "valentine's day poems" to "romantic movies" to (brace yourself) "good pick up lines." And it's all thanks to the one and only St. Valentine, whoever he was.