Once upon a time, Valentine's Day was so innocent -- a day to express feelings of love to special people in our lives. Today, Valentine's Day serves as a springboard for theatrical vignettes about women and their genitalia.

Most of us enjoy the holiday by greeting those we care about -- or pine for -- with cards, candy, flowers or maybe just a shy smile and good wish. And it isn't just a day about romance, but a time of warmth and cheer toward our families, children and friends.

The hijacking began 15 years ago, when Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues," presented us with a surrogate Feb. 14 holiday, "V-Day," meant to promote a movement to end violence against women. According to vday.org, the "V" stands for "victory, valentine and vagina."

One apparent goal of V-Day promoters is to replace the real meaning of the holiday -- love and reconciliation -- with a politically correct mandate of conflict between men and women. Where there could be love, they seem determined to sow resentment.

V-Day, in contrast to a message of love, demands that we spend the day obsessing about rape on a global scale. And genital mutilation. And sexual slavery, too. Women's studies departments at hundreds of colleges and communities across the nation sponsor in-your-face performances of "The Vagina Monologues" on Feb. 14. The intent, they claim, is to raise awareness and money to help "end the violence against girls and women."

Surely any such cause worth fighting for can stand on its own without the hostile takeover of a centuries-old observance. Sadly, there are plenty of other anniversaries that can better aid this purpose. The women V-Day purports to help do not need gimmicks by privileged celebrities such as Jane Fonda (member of the V-Day board) who claim to do their bidding.

Nor do they need disingenuous pieces of V-Day propaganda that beckon men -- using Robert Redford as a poster boy -- to join the cause. The implication is that men who really care about women must toe the V-Day line.

This misappropriation of Valentine's Day was not only unnecessary but is itself an act of violence to honorable traditions. As the forces of V-Day attempt to further eradicate the spirit of Valentine's Day, we should ponder stories of the third-century priest and martyr for whom the day is named.

There are several legends of St. Valentine, most originating in the Middle Ages. St. Valentine is said to have defied the ban on marriage imposed by the Roman emperor, Claudius II, by secretly performing Christian marriages.

This would be a double offense in third-century Rome. First, Christianity was illegal. St. Valentine, and Christians generally, had a pesky habit of refusing to bow down to the state as god. Second, St. Valentine's defiance of the marriage ban got in the way of the emperor's intent to build a larger army. The idea was to detach men from wives and families to make them better soldiers. Here St. Valentine symbolizes the battle against forces that seek to separate men and women.

In another popular legend, St. Valentine was beloved by children, who comforted him in prison by tossing in notes and flowers. One of them -- the blind daughter of St. Valentine's jailer -- miraculously gained her sight through the saint's intercession. Shortly thereafter, St. Valentine went to his beheading.

These stories may not translate well into the commercialization and sexualization -- and now the V-Day takeover -- of Valentine's Day. Sacrificial love doesn't sell. Yet people do seek out those who practice it (even if they'd rather not practice it themselves). One could say the spirit of St. Valentine exists in the hopes of everyone who reaches out and searches for love on this day.

Why would anyone want to put an end to that?

Stella Morabito writes on society, culture and education.