Our junior high newspaper called him the “founder of love,” but I wouldn’t go that far — though, perhaps more than most, he practiced what he preached.
We celebrate his day next week on Feb. 14.
Valentinus, known to all as Saint Valentine, lived during the third century way back in the 200s. His name is associated with the tradition of courtly love.
St. Valentine was a priest and later bishop. He was born and raised in Interamna. As it turned out his life would end there as well.
He loved God and His people. He was an advocate of the three magic words asked of us: “love one another.” He was eager to hear and support anyone who was in love.
During the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus, Valentine ran into trouble. In those days, it was illegal to profess Christianity at all.
Valentine, not following governmental instruction, was put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius. Legend says that Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Valentine went on about the light of Christ and Asterius listened intently as he had a daughter who was blind.
Asterius made a deal with Valentine — if Valentine could cure his daughter of blindness, he would convert to Christianity.
Valentine put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted, “Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”
The child could see. Asterius and his family were baptized. But the Emperor ordered them to be executed.
Valentine went even further and as a pastor performed wedding ceremonies — which were also illegal. At the time, the emperor proclaimed that there would be no romantic love going on because it weakened the Roman warriors. Thus, no weddings.
This was an odd way to promote military service, especially building the next generation, but I digress.
Valentine ran afoul of these laws and not only preached the Gospel, he actively performed the Sacrament of Marriage for couples who wanted to get hitched. This brought him into direct conflict with government authorities. He was arrested, jailed and tortured.
Claudius took a liking to this prisoner at first — until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor. Infuriated, the priest was condemned to death.
He was beaten with clubs and stones. When that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate (Via Flaminia) on Feb. 14, 269 A.D.
There are relics that survive to this day. In 1836, renowned Irish priest Fr. John Spratt was given a small vessel tinged with Valentine’s blood by Pope Gregory XVI. This reliquary can be seen today in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Other relics of Valentine may be found at Roquemaure in France; Stephansdom in Vienna; Balzan in Malta; and Glasgow, Scotland. His corpse is located at a church in Birmingham, England.
St. Valentine gave his life so others could love — that is a story that should sound very familiar to anyone who has studied Christianity.
Happy Valentine’s Day!