On this day in 270 A.D., a priest named Valentine refused to renounce his faith, despite strenuous efforts to dissuade him and many benefits promised to him if he would only deny Christ. Valentine refused, so he was first beaten with clubs and then beheaded.
I wonder if this is another holiday co-opted by the secularists that Christians could reclaim. (Yes, there are connections to love and marriage in the saint’s tales, though they seem to apply to another martyr named Valentine who married Christian couples despite the Emperor forbidding that practice. He was also honored on this day, simply because he shared the name of the other guy, though he had no connection as such with February 14, unlike the man who died on that day.)But how could we breathe Christian meaning into this observance? Celebrate the refusal to back down, whether in faith or in keeping one’s marriage vows despite all pressure? Celebrate the institution of marriage even though the prevailing culture, like the old Emperor, works against it? Who are some other martyrs for love? What would be some good customs that we should start? Anyway, to brighten your day, here is a picture of his relics in Rome, including what is said to be his actual skull that was removed from his body. (We don’t venerate these relics, but they make a wonderfully grisly reminder of what this day is really about.)