I think many people are ignorant about the person who was St. Valentine. Below is a retelling of the last days of his life from which the legend and holy-day came.
Valentinus was a Roman who lived during Emperor Claudius’ reign of terror. As Valentinus was a lover of God, he refused to worship the 12 Roman deities that Claudius insisted all citizens and non-citizens of the empire worship. Claudius saw Christians as a threat and made that faith illegal. Valentinus found himself in jail bound for execution.
Valentinus was an educated man. His jailer saw this and asked Valentinus to share his knowlege with Julia, the blind daughter of the jailer. Julia was a young girl, her exact age is not known, so she might have been a mere child. Valentinus agreed. He taught her mathematics, history, and theology from his cell.
Julia began to follow God, praying to Him morning and evening that she would receive her sight. In a dramatic conversion, on February 13th, Julia professed her belief in God. The two of them sat silently praying. After some time, a light filled the cell from somewhere they could not discern, and Julia’s vision was restored. Later that night, he wrote a note of encouragement to Julie, urging her to keep her faith strong. He signed it, “From your Valentine.”
Valentinus was killed the following day. He gave his life for his greatest love, Jesus. Julia planted a pink blossomed almond tree near her Valentine’s grave. It is said that
the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.
I hope today will be a day of love, just as in the last few days of St. Valentine’s life. In the story we see phileo, the love and affection between friends, storge, the love and bond between family, and agape, the all encompassing love between humanity and God. We see it the way the a father refused to believe the critics who told him his daughter could never study and learn because of her blindness. We see it in a man who was on death row, who took the time to give of himself to a stranger and had mercy on someone who society had pushed to the margins. We see it in the miraculous gift of sight, a final blessing for a dying man to experience as a result of his faith and sacrifice, and a new beginning for someone who’d experienced rejection all her life.
Despite what everyone will tell you, February 14th is not about eros, although this kind of love is a gift as well.
I wish you all a love-filled Valentines’ Day. Share some love with friend, family, or foe. Receive true love from the source.