Saint Valentine: A True Love Story
Valentine’s Day – it has become an occasion for flowers, chocolates, greeting cards, and other expressions of love. Yet many people don’t know the origins of this holiday and the courageous stand of the saint for whom it is named.
It is believed that Valentine was a priest serving Rome under Emperor Claudius II. At that time, Rome was embroiled in many costly and unpopular military campaigns. As a result, the emperor was finding it difficult to recruit soldiers to maintain and replenish his armies. Claudius came to believe that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of affection for and obligations to their wives and families.
To overcome this obstacle, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome.
Taking a Biblical Stand
As a Christian leader, Valentine knew the edict flew in the face of biblical teaching and doctrine regarding the sanctity of marriage and of the family. Recognizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied the emperor and continued to secretly perform marriages for young lovers.
“The church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged,” Father Frank O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells David Kithcart of The 700 Club. “The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them because of the edict.”
Valentinus was arrested by Claudius and placed into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.
Lisa Bitel, Professor of History and Religion at the University of Southern California, writes in Smithsonian Magazine: “As the story goes, Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus went on and on about Christ leading pagans out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterius’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.’”
According to the legend, a miracle took place and the child could see. As a result, Asterius and his whole family were baptized. Unfortunately, when Claudius heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed.
The last words Valentinus wrote were found in a note to Asterius’ daughter – signing it, “from your Valentine.”
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