St. Valentine - a Brief History



Friday, February 14 is St. Valentine's Day. This day has come to mean flowers and candle light for lovebirds, crunchy little hearts and cards for gradeschoolers, and bitterness for those left behind.

However, the name behind the mushy cards and flower sales belonged to a few separate godly men who served Christ early in Church history. At least three different martyrs named Valentine are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of February 14.

At least two Valentines were martyred under Roman Emperor Claudius II (AD 268 - 270), who is known for his sound beating of the Goths. The majority of his reign was spent at war and fighting rebellion and opposition. His devotion to conquering led the Emperor to declare that no young men of fighting age could be married; they needed to be focused on being soldiers. Yet, according to tradition, a Christian priest named Valentine opposed Claudius' decree and married young Roman soldiers in secret. When this illegal activity was discovered, Valentine was killed.

Another tradition tells of a young man named Valentine who was imprisoned when Claudius II outlawed Christianity. The Emperor declared Christianity treasonous by definition, since no Christians would worship Caesar as Lord. Like other Christians, Valentine was imprisoned for his faith. But, while in prison, he continued to minister the Gospel of Christ, even to his jailors. He befriended one jailor, who asked him to pray for his blind adopted daughter. Valentine prayed for the girl and she gained her eyesight. Valentine had the opportunity to witness to the jailor and his whole family and a large number of them believed in Jesus. When the news reached the Emperor that Valentine was making converts even while in prison, he had Valentine beheaded. According to the story, young Valentine sent a note to the healed girl just before his execution, signing it, " from your Valentine".

St. Valentine's Day, while honoring the saints who were martyred near that day, was not apparently associated with romantic love until the time of Chaucer. In Chaucer's "Parliament of Fouls" composed around 1380, he stated:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

As St. Valentine's Day arrives, and sweethearts exchange cards and gifts, may we be encouraged by the truly unselfish love of Christ - and his servants who died so that the Gospel could be spread on to us.

Related Links:
Back to the Heart of Valentine's Day - Christian Women Today
History of Valentine's Day - The History Channel
St. Valentine - New Advent


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