Today we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day (well, other than Matt Lewis, a Valentine’s Day skeptic who also doesn’t want anyone to laugh at Bob Costas’ Olympic pink eye problems). The rest of us will celebrate with cards, hearts, flowers, candy, romance, and other weapons of romance. Or hope for the day that we have someone special to celebrate with.
It’s a good day to remember why we celebrate love, not just romantic love but selfless love. The love Christ noted as the deepest — when someone lays down his life for his friends.
We know very little about the man who is called Saint Valentine. We celebrate him on this day because February 14 is the day that his deep love cost him his life.
Valentine lived in the early Christian era, that much is certain. He may have been a young Roman who helped Christians who were under persecution from the Roman empire. One story says that he was imprisoned for aiding Christians, and while in prison became a Christian himself. He knew that execution was imminent, so he wrote letters to his friends that ended, “Remember your Valentine.”
The most popular story is that Valentine was a Roman priest who fought an unjust imperial law.
Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.
To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.
Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.”
For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.
Like most holidays in our times, Valentine’s Day has become more about commercialism than about its origins. Which is too bad. Christians face a plague of persecution around the world and increasingly here in the United States, the one nation with the power to defend the freedom to practice faith, or not, as an individual sees fit.
Today is a good day to remember being a Valentine entails quite a bit more than a bouquet or a box of candy. It’s a matter of life and death, faith, freedom and sacrifice.