Valentine’s day! A day set aside for celebrating all things heart shaped, eating too much candy, and naked babies firing sharp objects. This is the day when young couples celebrate their relationship and married folks reflect on their years dating. More than any other day of the year, it is a day for celebrating love. But who was the mysterious Saint Valentine for whom the day is named? (Many of you may have heard the excellent Adventures in Odyssey episode on his life and death. I would highly recommend it.) Let’s take a look at the life, death, and convictions of this man of God.
Turn the Wayback Machine to 269 AD. Claudius Gothicus was the emperor of the expansive Roman Empire. Known as Claudius the Cruel, he was a less-then-popular ruler. Claudius was a great military leader. However, he had a little problem. The men in their armies loved their families. They wished to stay behind with their wives and children rather than fight in Claudius’ military campaigns. This outraged Claudius and, in retaliation, he outlawed marriage for any member of the Roman army.
Now we meet Valentine. Named Valentinus, he was a Bishop of the Christian church in the province of Interamna. Valentine was passionate about his faith and, according to legend; he had already been beaten for aiding the church. Valentine loved marriage and it angered him that Roman soldiers were banned from taking part in this sacred God-established institution. He defied Claudius’ orders and began performing secret underground marriages. Claudius learned of Valentine’s rebellion and had him arrested and brought to Rome. Valentine, undaunted, preached the gospel to the emperor. He was sentenced to death and thrown in prison.
While in jail, he befriended the blind daughter of the jailer. He began to pray for the impossible: that God would restore her sight. Sure enough, her eyesight was returned! Sadly, the day came when Valentine was to be killed. He signed the last note to the jailer’s daughter, “Your Valentine.” On February 14th, he refused to deny his faith and was beheaded.
How much of this do we know for certain? Not much. The majority of what we know of Valentine is based on stories written down hundreds of years later. However, in a dusty corner of Rome, archeologists found an underground church dedicated to Saint Valentine. The story of Valentine taught me several things. First, there are some beliefs worth standing up for, fighting for, and dying for. Secondly, God uses catastrophe and pain to show His power and glory. Finally, one man can make a huge difference in the world!
So, when you are spending quality time with that special someone, eating those yummy candy hearts, or listening to Gustav Holst’s Venus, remember the bishop who refused to recant on his beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, the power of God, and the truth of the gospel!
NOTE: The majority of the information for this article was gathered from THIS Voice of the Martyrs article.