February 14, 2016 by eneubauer
St. Valentine is known as the patron of love, young people and happy marriages. Being in love, having been young once and being married with four beautiful children – I am glad that we have an advocate in heaven praying for each of us. I need all the help I can get.
That being said, over the years Valentines day has become a celebration of love – with flowers, candy and cards marking our modern expression of this holiday. It’s hard not to mention that we have done a great job of commercializing this event – placing certain expectations on individuals to purchase all sorts of goodies to mark the occasion as a sign of our love and devotion to a particular individual. I participate in this holiday with joy and have embraced it as an opportunity to demonstrate my love for my wife and children.
However, after a short study on the history of Valentinus I want to make a few observations about this day that I think are interesting and important. First, let us remember that Valentinus was a temple priest – placed in prison during the reign of Claudius the Goth. Valentinus was not only marrying Christian couples but was aiding any Christian suffering persecution under Claudius’ reign. It is believed that Valentinus, while in jail for his defiance against the dictates of his emperor, came under the good graces of Claudius. This relationship ended when Valentinus tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. At this point tradition tells us that Valentinus was beaten with clubs, stoned and beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate in or around AD 269.
Second, it seems to me that while we celebrate love on this day, Valentines Day may be more appropriately marked as the day we celebrate religious freedom, freedom of expression, the institution of marriage and martyrdom. I would say that we need more like Valentinus in our day. He stood up under enormous pressure for what he believed without compromise. While others suffered persecution Valetinus brought aid, thinking always of others before himself. When he was brought to justice for his crimes against the empire (his expression of religious belief) Valentines found himself miraculously under the good graces of the Emperor. Of course, he could have kept quiet in the hope of being released but instead he shared his faith in Jesus Christ with the Emperor. It was for this act of evangelization that tradition tells us he was martyred in the most brutal of fashions.
Today, let me encourage you to continue celebrating St. Valentines Day – marked with gifts and goodies for those you love. However, in light of the age and culture in which we live let us also be encouraged to remember that this day was instituted because Valentinus had the resolve to stand up against unjust laws for love of Christ, Church and the people.
Today, may we follow this martyrs lead and stand firm in the conviction(s) of our common faith. Use this Lenten season to draw close to Christ and the Holy Scriptures.