On this Valentine’s Day, it is important to remember he who gives the holiday its namesake, St. Valintinus.
While there is some confusion around the life and identity of this early Christian martyr, I found some interesting characteristics that go beyond the sweetness of a heart shaped box of chocolates.
Most histories state that Valentinus was a Christian priest in Rome. He was arrested on countless occasions for proselytizing. While under house arrest, a judge, Asterius, put the priest to the test, saying he would do anything he asked if he healed his blind daughter. Valentinus did so and when Asterius asked what he should do, Valentinus told the judge to destroy all of the idols in his house, fast for three days, and be baptized. Asterius complied and he and his entire household were baptized. The judge also freed all of the Christian captives under his jurisdiction.
Another legend has it that Valentinus secretly married Christian couples so that the husbands would not have to go to war. As a result, he was arrested and sent to the prefect of Rome, the emperor Claudius himself. The emperor took a liking to the priest, but when Valentinus refused to renounce his faith, Claudius had him executed. Valentinus was beaten with clubs and beheaded outside the Flamian Gate on February 14, 269.
So on this day when we celebrate love, it is important that we remember St. Valentine, who helped the blind to see, refused to bow down to idols, spoke truth to judges and emperors, helped set the captives free, and used his authority to keep men from having to go to war.
Above all, he could not stop talking about the great Love of his life and in the end was martyred for his faith.