The problem with celebrating the history behind St. Valentine’s Day is that there is more than one saint named Valentine. Very little is known about any of them. Many church historians suspect that the one we celebrate today is probably a priest from the 3rd century. Back in the day, people kept a lot stories alive strictly through oral history. That doesn’t really help us today as today most people want documented factual accounts. But does it really matter if the details of an ancient story are exactly perfect? The fact is that stories are told and often embellished to inspire and make a point. So why rob them of their beauty? The early Christians obviously cherished the story I’m about to tell because it spoke to them. It puts the things of God above the things of the empire. It shows how faith, hope and love transcend the political issues of the day. Indeed, the story shows how faith, hope and love are even greater than war and death. It shows how priests must be willing to sacrifice themselves for the love of their people. What’s not to like about telling such wisdom stories? I think they’re awesome. So here’s the gist of this one…
Father Valentine was a Roman priest doing his work only two hundred years-ish after the death of Jesus. At the time, there was some kind of war mongering emperor who forbade his soldiers from getting married because he thought it made them soft and less effective fighters. So these soldiers would secretly visit Father Valentine with their girlfriends. He would prepare them for marriage and ultimately perform the ceremony. Eventually the emperor’s minions found out about this and arrested him. The enraged emperor had him tortured and executed, probably by being beheaded.
What a story! Notice how much these people valued the Sacrament of Matrimony. The soldiers presumably could have just fornicated freely with these girls. It would have been a lot easier. But they sought something higher, more beautiful, and a lot more dangerous. By risking everything and seeking out the grace of the sacrament, they provide an inspiring witness to us all that true love is commitment. It’s not just having sex.
So that’s the bloody truth about Valentine’s Day. Sort of makes you look at today a bit differently, doesn’t it? Happy Valentine’s Day!