Most of us enjoy the various traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day. My husband George and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day, so it’s always a special day for us. But the origins of the holiday aren’t really very romantic at all. The history of St. Valentine is a little sketchy, but the story goes like this:
Valentinus was a Roman priest during the third century, a time when Christians were suffering persecution under Emperor Claudius II. The emperor had issued an edict that members of the Roman military could not marry, thinking unmarried men would make better soldiers. But Valentinus continued to secretly perform Christian weddings and was sent to prison for his efforts.
Many legends surround his imprisonment. One of them says Valentinus prayed for a young girl named Julia who could not see and she was healed of her blindness. The story goes that when the order came for Valentinus to be put to death, his last words were written in a note to Julia signed, “from your Valentinus.” Valentinus was executed the next day, February 14.
While we may think of Valentine’s Day as a time for hearts and flowers and candy, the legend of St. Valentine focuses our thoughts elsewhere. Valentine was a martyr for his faith who was unafraid to stand up for what he believed, even when it meant challenging the powers of government and resisting the edict of the emperor. While St. Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of love and marriage, he is also remembered for his faith and courage.
As we enjoy our Valentine’s Day celebrations, may we also remember St. Valentine. And may we devote ourselves not only to our loved ones, but to the kind of obedience to God that St. Valentine’s life exemplifies. Happy Valentine’s Day!