Saint Valentine’s Day
America has a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. Mostly, people in relationships enjoy it and people who are single resent it. I understand that; pretty much everyone wants romantic love in their lives, and it can be hard to watch the world explode with hearts and flowers when you’re on your own.
I’m pro-Valentine’s day. If there’s anything in life worth commemorating for a day, why not love? But why “Valentine’s Day”? Who’s Valentine?
If you’ve heard of St. Valentine already, the story you know probably goes something like this: The Romans were fighting foreign wars and needed men. The Emperor, knowing that young, single men made good soldiers, forbid marriage for men of fighting age. St. Valentine was heartbroken by this order and began marrying couples in secret until he was eventually captured and imprisoned. While awaiting execution, he restored the sight of the jailer’s daughter and wrote her a letter, signed “Your Valentine.”
This St. Valentine was probably the Bishop of Terni, Italy in the 3rd Century, though very little is known about him. He was almost surely executed by Emperor Cassius II of Rome, but what he did to deserve his fate is less clear. Most likely, St. Valentine was caught aiding Christians in some way, who were persecuted in Rome during that time. And while some accounts mention Valentine performing marriages in defiance of the Emperor, others do not.
Whatever the true story of St. Valentine, today we celebrate love in his name. So why not choose that first story? After all, what could be more deserving of commemoration than someone who died not just for his own love, but in service to the love of others?
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