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VALENTINE

827 AD

Valentine was a Roman of an upper-class family living in the area of the Via Lata, then the aristocratic section of the city. His parents, who were as good as they were noble, brought Valentine up in a truly Christian manner, and he grew up to be a serious young man devoted to prayer and his studies. He became a cleric and caught the eye of Pope St. Paschal I, who placed him in charge of the Lateran Palace. Paschal grew to be very fond of this promising cleric and made him archdeacon of the Roman Church. Pope Eugene II also appreciated Valentine's excellent qualities and, like Paschal, relied upon his help in governing the Church.

After Eugene's death, the Roman clergy and nobles gathered in the Lateran to elect a new pope. This time there was no contest at all. Clergy and nobles alike raised the cry: "Valentine, the most holy archdeacon, is worthy of the Apostolic See; Valentine must be made pope!" Then they streamed out of the Lateran and hurried to the Church of St. Mary Major where they found Valentine at prayer. In spite of his earnest protests that he was not worthy, they insisted on Valentine's election.

Valentine seems to have been an ideal choice. He certainly did enjoy a wonderful reputation. But he was to have little chance to prove his worth as pope. Within about forty days of his election Valentine was dead.

The nobles had triumphed in the election of Eugene II. In Valentine's election there had been no contest, but it is noted that the nobles like the clergy, took part in the affair. So far the nobles' influence had not been bad. Eugene was a good pope; Valentine promised to be an excellent one. But as their power grows and the imperial grip on Rome relaxes, the little lords will prove to be unworthy of the responsibility of sharing in a papal election. Their participation in these elections foreshadows a dark and stormy time for the papacy.


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