Widely recognized as a “Hallmark Holiday,” Valentines Day is actually named after a Christian martyr, Saint Valentine. Tradition tells us Valentine was a priest during the third century under the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II.
Emperor Claudius II believed single men made better soldiers than married men. It was certainly easier to conscript single men then their married counterparts. In a society where marriage was already disdained (polygamy, mistresses and paramours were common place) Emperor Claudius II envisioned little dissent for his decree that men of eligible age for military service should not marry.
There was one small segment of society that was appalled by the decree; the much maligned, misunderstood, and persecuted purists known as Christians. Christians believed their scriptures pointed to a God who designed marriage to be sacred contract between one man and one woman. These radicals even promoted the idea that intercourse outside of marriage was ungodly!
Despite the unpopular and definitely counter-cultural stance of Christianity, many young people were drawn to its message of hope, love, and salvation. The witness of Christian couples who despite being less than perfect and despite being persecuted lived in a committed loving relationship that was healthier than anything in the surrounding culture attracted couples to want what those Christian couples had; a relationsip founded in Christ's love. Valentine was a priest in Rome who was willing to perform Christian weddings for young couples of military conscription age despite it being declared illegal. He was imprisoned and eventually executed for his doubly suberverive crimes of: converting young men and women to Christianity and performing Christian weddings. After he was executed Valentine was buried on Feb. 14, 269.
How Valentine gets connected with this “Hallmark Holiday” is interesting. Legend has it that while he was in prison he converted many soldiers and prisoners to Christianity. Many were primarily moved to convert after he healed the warden’s blind daughter . He wrote letters to his converts signing them “Your Valentine.” It is said that the warden’s daughter with her new sight treasured reading these letters signed by her “saint” that gave her sight.
The Catholic church designated St. Valentine the patron saint of love, young people, and a happy marriage. From there you know the rest…
Perhaps knowing the background of St. Valentine’s Day the best way Christians can celebrate the occasion is to say “God loves you and so do I.”
In Christ’s love,