Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.
What the Hallmark cards won’t tell you is that Saint Valentine was a holy troublemaker — he was imprisoned, beaten, and brutally executed. Pretty Punk Rock right?
Valentine was a priest in Rome in the 3rd century.
He was known for assisting Christians persecuted under Claudius II. After being caught marrying Christian couples, and helping Christians escape the persecution, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Undoubtedly, it is from this that the romantic elements of Valentine’s day emerged — but far more than a romantic, Valentine was a revolutionary.
There are many legends of Saint Valentine — that he courageously refused to pay homage to the imperial gods faithful only to Christ, and that he was a war resister, subversively marrying young couples preventing the men from going to war (the emperor Claudius believed unmarried men made better soldiers so married men were spared the horrors of war). Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Saint Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor.
Eventually, Valentine was beaten with stones, clubbed, and, finally, beheaded on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named as a day of celebration in Valentine’s honor.
Valentine became friends with the daughter of his captor. Just before he was executed, Valentine healed the blind daughter of the jailer, restoring her vision (a radical Jesus type act of love your enemy.) As the legend goes, on the day of his execution, he left the jailer’s daughter a note signed: “Your Valentine” … undoubtedly sparking what has become a classic Valentine’s tradition around the world, of sending little notes to people we love.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, we could be a little more like Valentine, and write a note to someone who might be an enemy or who might be a most unlikely, subversive friend. Try that today. And sign it as he did, “Your Valentine”