My colleague, Charlie Collier, has just seen into publication a wonderful new book by Kerry Walters and Robin Jarrell—Blessed Peacemakers: 365 Extraordinary People Who Changed the World. See some of Charlie’s comments about the book here.

Today, Charlie pointed me to another entry from the book. So, with a hat tip to him, here are a couple of bits on St. Valentine. One on the commercialization of Valentine’s Day…

St. Valentine’s feast day has fallen on hard times. It’s become an annual occasion marked by mawkish verse, images of fat cupids shooting arrows into hearts, and binge spending (in 2011, U.S. consumers blew nearly $16 billion on Valentine cards, candy, flowers, and jewels). Even the Roman Catholic Church contributed to the day’s decline by taking if off the General Roman Calendar in 1969. But despite all the marketing hoopla that’s almost swallowed up the day, peacemakers ought to remember it, because at its best it’s a commemoration of the nonviolent power of love.

…and one on how it is St. Valentine might have come to be associated with such a day as what we now commercialize:

Not much is known about St. Valentine. He lived in the third century, was a priest in Rome, and was martyred in the final years of the Emperor Claudius II’s reign. Stories about Valentine have him ministering in various ways to persecuted Christians. But the story that best expresses what the saint stands for has it that he secretly married dozens of young Christian couples during a time when Claudius had forbidden male youths from marrying because he wanted them as unencumbered soldiers for his legions. Valentine was discovered officiating at one such wedding and was hauled in chains before Claudius. Once there, he tried to convert the emperor. Enraged at the priest’s presumption, Claudius had him beaten nearly to death and then beheaded.