Valentine’s Day is a day some think to be our culture’s way of commercializing love. A way to turn love from a deep, devoted commitment into an easily bought commodity won over by cheap candy and flowers and a night out. However, it is not commonly known that the origin of Valentine’s Day is based on the life, death, and sacrifice of a man centuries ago.
St. Valentine, a priest of the Catholic faith, lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II or “Claudius the Cruel,” according to Father Chris Crowley at Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, and the Smithsonian Magazine.
Crowley and other sources like the History Channel said Claudius was finding it difficult to recruit young men for his army. Claudius blamed this on increased male attachment to females, and he banned new marriages and engagements until further notice. In response to this, Valentine continued to perform as many secret marriages as he could before he was found out.
When he was arrested, Valentine was sentenced to death by being beaten with sticks and then beheaded.
Beyond these facts, the truth is a bit muddled. Some sources, like the History Channel, claim that while Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, writing her a love note and signing it “From Your Valentine.” The date of Valentine’s death also remains slightly in question, but it was most likely around 269 or 270 AD.
Valentine was named a saint after his death, and Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day, possibly in attempt to uproot the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love.
However you look at it, Valentine’s Day is about more than a simple gesture of love or adoration. It is about sacrifice and devotion, love and honor, in the face of overwhelming and dangerous odds.
While making your Valentine’s Day plans, remember St. Valentine who was willing to give his life in pursuit of love and marriage, and ask yourself if you would be willing to do the same for those you profess to love.