Happy Saint Valentine’s Day. As much as I like the chocolate — and hope my wife gets me some today (fair-trade organic chocolate, of course) — Valentine’s Day wasn’t always about chocolate, hearts, and roses. He was a priest in Rome in the 3rd century — who was brutally executed.
Valentine 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. One of the accusations was that his underground weddings were a subversive act of war resistance as it prevented the young men from going to war — the emperor insisted that married men made better soldiers. Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor. He was relentless in his devotion to Christ. 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.
There are many legends of Valentine, but here’s one of my favorites: Valentine became friends with the daughter of his captor. The jailor’s daughter was blind. Before his execution, Valentine healed the blind daughter of the jailer, restoring her vision — a dazzling act of enemy-love. As the legend goes, on the day he was beheaded, he left the jailer’s daughter a heartfelt note of love and appreciation, signed: “Your Valentine”
Undoubtedly, it sparked what has become a classic Valentine’s tradition around the world — sending little notes to people we love (or people we would like to love).
Perhaps even more faithful to Valentine would be to write a note to someone today who might be an enemy or who might be a most unlikely, subversive friend. So try that this Valentine’s day. And sign it as he did, “Your Valentine.” I’m sure it will make ol’ Valentine smile down on you or blow you a kiss from heaven.