WHO WAS ST. VALENTINE?

February 14, 2021

Today is St. Valentines Day. From the first grade through the sixth grade my classmates were allowed to exchange valentine cards. I didn’t know what the holiday was about and don’t think most of my classmates did either.

I think most of my classmates thought it must be a romantic occasion as most of the cards had pictures of hearts with arrows through them, or some mushy poem, or some other picture that indicated the card was meant to be exchanged between boyfriend/girlfriend.

But my mother always bought David and me a big box of valentine cards so that we could give a card to every class member. Most all my other classmates gave a card to each student in the class too.

I’ll never forget one of my classmates lecturing to everyone in the class that it was stupid for boys to give a card to a boy or a girl to give one to a girl. He was convinced even at an early age that St. Valentine’s Day had something to do with love but admitted he had no idea who St. Valentine was.

Even today most people don’t know who St. Valentine was, when he lived,  or what country he was from – and especially what he did. Regrettably, I was such a person too who knew little about him.

But when I got grown and went into the ministry at a young age I became very curious about who St. Valentine was. I deduced he was a Saint and that he would have been Catholic. But that’s about all I knew about him. So I decided to research his life and learn more. Research on anything was hard to accomplish 52 years ago. That was way before the internet. I did what most people had to do – I went to a public library, checked the card catalog, and found the books available on the subject. That day I researched St. Valentine I found three books. I located them and took them to an isolated table where I spent about three hours reading. You’ve probably experienced this too: the three books were written by three different authors and I got three different stories. I made copious notes and took them home to further study.

I’ll tell you what I found shortly. After I moved to Longview, Texas, two years ago this month, I wanted to write this blog post about St. Valentine so I went to my computer and found an interesting site I wanted to read. The lady who wrote the long article seemed to be very credible. She wrote the article without remuneration just to help get the truth out about St. Valentine. Her name is Lisa Bitel who is a Professor of History and Religion, USC Domsite College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

It’s a long article and I would suggest you read it. She started by saying that Valentine’s Day originated as a liturgical feast day celebrating the decapitation of a third-century martyr, or perhaps two. So she mused, how did we get from beheading to a man of romance and love on Valentine’s Day?

Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentine’s who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D. when a time of persecution of Christians was common.

How do we know this? Because an order of Belgian monks spent three centuries collecting evidence for the lives of saints from manuscript archives around the known world. The best story compiled by the monks was of a Roman priest named Valentinus who was arrested during the reign of Emperior Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.

Asterious made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus preached to the pagans about how Christ could lead them out of darkness into the light of salvation. Asterious made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterious’s foster daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus  put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted:

“Lord Jesus Christ, enlighten your handmade because you are God,  the True light.”

Immediately she could see. Asterius and his entire family were baptized. Unfortunately, when Emperor Gothius heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed. But Valentinus was the only one beheaded. A widow made off with his body and had it buried at the site of his martyrdom. Later, a chapel was built over the saint’s remains.

Another popular story was about a St. Valentine who sacrificed his life to allow couples to marry despite a prohibition against it at the time. This Valentine is probably where the source of romantic valentine’s cards, etc. comes from.

So, today, I have for my precious wife, Sandra, my daughter, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, son and grandsons, special Valentine’s Day cards.  Plus some extra goodies!

Let us celebrate this special day by remembering St. Valentine and his life of commitment to Christ, and of course, the recipients of our earthly gifts.

If you enjoyed this, please share.

God Bless You,
Spencer and Sandra Plumley