Of all the Saints to whom we could grant a special day to celebrate love, why did we choose Valentine, a dude who never even had a girlfriend, let alone a long term monogamous relationship? He was a priest who died young, after curing some blind girl of her sight and writing her a note, signed “your Valentine.” This is the guy who’s supposed to inspire tokens of enduring love? A guy who left a note before his abrupt departure?
First of all, let’s just address with this whole “Valentine helped young lovers” nonsense. Saints are supposed to help people in need or difficulty. Is this a global crisis of some sort: young people needing help being attracted to each other? Has this ever been a problem? It’s called falling in love, not hefting in love or solving-for-x in love, or doing-a-mountain-of-ironing in love. Falling. Easy.
Married people on the other hand, or the long-partnered, they need the help with that loving feeling. Sometimes, say after the 45th time of hearing the same story mangled the same way, or 44th time of explaining where the envelopes are kept, miracles might be called for. And not to be all Bah, Lovebug about it, but Valentine’s a bit of a wimpy role model. He wrote a note. Not exactly what we call doing the hard yards.
I’ve done some research, and I’d like to suggest some alternate saints, some hallowed individuals who might be more apt figurehead for those lucky enough to be in a long term monogamous relationship.
St. Genevieve, Patron Saint of Disasters: Genevieve brought food to the people of Paris when it was under siege and cupboards were bare. When the barbarians were approaching her home, she persuaded folks to stay and protect their city. This day could be celebrated by somebody else doing the grocery shopping. Or by family members looking after their own living quarters. For a change.
Saint Dymphna, Patron Saint of the Emotionally Disturbed: Dymphna’s father became unhinged after her mother died and fell in love with his daughter. After Dymphna fled to Belgium with her priest to avoid him, he followed her and in his rage, cut her head off. So this day could be celebrated by taking an overseas holiday without in-laws, even perfectly lovely and well-adjusted ones. Or, for that matter, without kids. (Bonus: Dymphna is the go-to Saint for problem-drinking, in case anyone’s parents insist on tagging along.)
St Blandina, Patron Saint of the Falsely Accused: Blandina was accused of murdering children and eating their flesh because she was a christian. This day could be celebrated by just taking a breath, for goodness sake, before asking why someone let the kids go outside without their coats or a snack or the same shoe on each foot. That was how they wanted to go out. They’re fine. And no they didn’t just have ice cream for dinner. They had McDonald’s first.
Saint Swithun, Patron Saint of Rain: Swithun, who was bishop of Winchester, was much given to the building up of church and civic infrastructure. This day could be celebrated by spontaneous acts of home improvement, made by either spouse. Vacuuming will not count, although since Swithun is the patron saint of rain, fixing a leaky faucet might. Putting up shelves definitely would.
Saint Odilo: Patron Saint of Poor Souls in Purgatory. Odilo persuaded the warring barons of his era to cease hostilities during Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas. His day could be marked by going a whole day without disagreeing with your spouse. Or if that’s too ambitious, no fighting in the car. Or at least, no arguing at mealtimes. Or maybe no fighting in any carpeted areas between 7:30 and 7:55 a.m. Come to think of it, the Patron Saint of Purgatory is pretty appropriate for marriage: unbearable, but better than the other option. (Note to St. Odilo card manufacturers. Be careful with that spelling. Not Odildo…)
Any of these five would trump Saint Val for long-term relationships. Although to give him his due, he did get executed for his commitment to getting people married in the first place. (The authorities at the time were of the belief that unencumbered men made better soldiers.) This has to count for something. So let’s let him be the patron saint of the engaged or newlyweds or christianmingle.com. And let’s have two holidays for love, one named after St. Valentine, and one after one of these more hardy icons. Instead of chocolate or flowers, which are perishable, spouses could exchange chewing gum as a tribute to each others’ longevity, flexibility and tendency to get in their hair. Or cigarettes, a fitting token for someone who is probably going to be the death of you, but whom you can’t give up.
Also, both are really easy to buy at the gas station on the way home in case you forget.