St. Valentine

Heart-shaped cards, chocolates, roses, and romance. All these things capture the essence of the popular romantic holiday Valentine’s Day. Showing love for your significant other is really what this entire holiday is for, right? Or perhaps that is not the case. After all, the origin of this holiday doesn’t spark from romantic love at all, but more of a platonic sacrificial love as displayed by the most honored Saint Valentine.

In the 268 AD the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius II. Claudius was generally tolerant of most religious policies but persecuted the Catholic Church. He passed an edict forbidding the young to marry, based off of the belief that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers, who were constantly worried for the health and well-being of their family in the soldier’s absence, or what would happen to the family in the event of the soldier’s death. Polygamy was also more popular during this time, though much against the Christian teachings of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.

Despite the restricting edict, marriage was the special mission of St. Valentine. He secretly married young lovers in the Catholic Church, going against Roman law to secure the bonds of love between young couples. However, the Roman authorities eventually captured and imprisoned him. After imprisonment and grueling torture, St. Valentine was put before the Roman law for his acts of sealing love in the Catholic Church against the laws of the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Asterius, one of Valentine’s jailers, was the father of a young blind girl. A Roman put up to judge Valentine, he was clearly not a man of faith, but his concern and desperation for his daughter’s health led him to give Valentine the chance to heal his daughter during Valentine’s imprisonment. Valentine prayed to God and miraculously healed Asterius’ daughter of her blindness. Witnessing this astounding deed of healing led to Asterius’ conversion to Christianity. Shortly thereafter in 269 AD, Valentine was condemned to a three-part execution of beating, stoning, and beheading. Popular tradition holds that the very last words of this man of love were written to the once-blind daughter of the very jailer he converted, Asterius. He signed the note he sent her “from your Valentine”, and was led off to meet his painful end.

How he signed his final note inspired the romantic messages exchanged on Valentine’s Day and gives a deeper meaning to the commonplace phrase of the holiday, “Will you be my Valentine?”. The name of Valentine shows a deeper love than many romantic relationships and a willingness to sacrifice your life for your faith and loved ones. It shows a deep commitment and love that should be valued and cherished in all forms in which it is found. We celebrate his feast day, St. Valentine’s Day, on the 14th of February, and he is honored as the patron saint of lovers. St. Valentine celebrated love in all of its forms and inspired the romantic holiday of love today.

St. Valentine’s Day is perhaps one of the most celebrated saint days in America; however, the religious understanding of the day has been lost amid the flurry of chocolates, hearts, and jewelry. In taking a look at who St. Valentine was, as well as the reason he has been honored as a saint since the 3rd century, the true meaning of St. Valentine’s Day can be uncovered and observed with reverence.

Much of the details of St. Valentine’s life have been lost to time. What remains, though, is the story of a man whose love for Christ directed his life, and ultimately led him to a martyr’s death. St. Valentine was a Roman priest who ministered to the Christians persecuted under the reign of Claudius II. Because St. Valentine disagreed with the war Rome was engaged in, he took to marrying engaged Christian couples, which meant the men were spared being enlisted in the Roman army, which only took single men. St. Valentine’s devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ drove him to aid the persecuted Christians in any way he could.

Due to the fact that St. Valentine was a priest, and particularly because he helped the Christians who were oppressed under the rule of Claudius II, he was arrested by the Roman officials. At first, Claudius II took a liking to St. Valentine due to his gentle nature; however, when St. Valentine attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity, he was ordered to be put to death. While in jail awaiting his martyrdom, St. Valentine restored the sight of the jailer’s blind daughter. On the night before he was to be put to death, he wrote a farewell letter to the girl, signing it “From Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine was beaten with clubs, then stoned, and when these methods failed to kill him, he was beheaded. The date of his death was February 14, 269. He was buried along the Flaminian Way. Most of his relics currently reside at the Whitefriars Church in Dublin, Ireland. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared that February 14 would be St. Valentine’s feast day, in honor of his martyrdom.

By Charles Quao
– Cardinal –

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