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February 16, 2024

Writing Saint Valentine

February 16, 2024
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We sat down to talk with James Barrows, one of the writers for The Saints about his experience writing Saint Valentine.

James Barrows


Q: What inspired you to write about Saint Valentine?

A: One of the main things that drew me to the character of Valentine, was that he was a bishop during the Early Church.  When you look at the history, these bishops did everything; performed the sacraments, took care of the poor, they were well-read and knowledgeable with medicine; in other words, if they were of good character, these bishops didn’t live extravagant lives separated from the people, they were in the weeds with their fellow Christians. And they did this throughout many persecutions of the Early Church by the Romans. 

So to explore that history was exciting, and to do it with a man with as much legend and myth surrounding him as Saint Valentine, was very intriguing. These bishops, who led the early Christian church, were surrounded by so many countless martyrs, and had to tend to and care for their spirituality. So that was interesting to me as well, to write from their perspective and to weave other Christian martyrs and legends into Valentine’s story. 

The World

Q: What can listeners expect when they press 'play' on episode one? 

A: Listeners can expect to be immediately transported into a fascinating world where Christians are persecuted by the Romans for their Faith; where miracles are confused with magic and sorcery; where bishops are disguising themselves as soldiers and sneaking into dungeons to tend to their flock; where the most unlikely and rigidly militaristic men are swayed by the Faith of the few; where young love is sacrificial. The list goes on. These are some of the things that attracted me to the legend and story of Valentine; hopefully you all feel the same when you listen.

The History

Q: When telling Valentine's story, how did you strike a balance between presenting Valentine's history and creating a compelling narrative?

A: The truth is, and I may get in trouble for this one: Valentine’s history is very scarce. The stories surrounding him are mostly legend and myth, retold over and over and getting more extravagant as time goes on. What I tried to accomplish, in building his character and story, was to pay tribute to those legends that I’m sure many listeners have heard (I’m thinking of a certain miracle that has to do with a letter to a young girl), while at the same time, creating a historically rich character; one that is grounded and as close to what he would have been in the 3rd century. 

The balance, I think, is in grounding some of those legends into something that could potentially be real and sound real. With Saint George I did a similar thing, where I grounded him in reality as much as can be gleaned from historical books, while also keeping the dragon in the story (if you listened to George, the dragon appears in his dreams, not in real life).

Thank you to James Barrows for his work on bringing the extraordinary story of Saint Valentine to life!

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