Ah yes, St. Valentine’s day is here again. For one day each year, the world turns pink and red, floral shops and chocolatiers turn a handsome profit, and candlelight makes a comeback at dinner time.
But buried and forgotten somewhere beneath chocolates and candy hearts lies a courageous man named St. Valentine. Let’s learn a little about him.
Life and Martyrdom
Unfortunately, the life of St. Valentine has been mostly lost to history, but according to the Nuremburg Chronicle, a huge book of history written in the Middle Ages, St. Valentine was arrested for marrying Christian couples and helping Christians escape persecution at the hands of the emperor Claudius II.
While Valentine was imprisoned, a strange thing happened— he somehow won the favor of the emperor. Because of his new benefactor, St. Valentine was well on his way to freedom when he made a fatal mistake: He tried to convert Claudius to the Christian faith.
For his audacity, St. Valentine was immediately sentenced to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned, all the while being asked to deny the faith. When he refused to deny Christ, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian gate. The year was 296 A.D.
St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of engaged couples, epilepsy, bee keeping, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, travelers, and young people. If you’re thinking of taking up beekeeping or getting married, St. Valentine would make a good patron!
Virtues to Imitate
While we don’t know much about St. Valentine’s life, we do know that he was a virtuous and holy man. Here are four things we can learn from him.
Courage – Imagine hundreds of your fellow Catholics are being rounded up by the government and executed in the most gruesome ways. Would you have the courage to openly defy the government? That’s exactly what St. Valentine did. The Latin name Valentinus means “strong” or “filled with valor,” and St. Valentine certainly lived up to his name, displaying courage and strength in choosing to obey God rather than man. We, too, should have the courage to do what is right in God’s eyes, no matter what the consequences.
Faith – To St. Valentine, denying the faith was not an option. He preferred suffering and a bloody death rather to denying the Catholic and Apostolic faith. How firmly do we believe the teaching of the Church? Are we cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose which teachings we will follow? Do we disobey when Mother Church asks us to make hard choices or sacrifice in obedience? Like St. Valentine, we should show our commitment to Christ by our unwavering fidelity to the faith— always submitting to it, proclaiming it, and defending it.
Love for souls – While there is a lot of talk about the New Evangelization, Catholics are, generally speaking, terrible evangelists. Yet, if we really love others, we will care about their salvation. If we care about their salvation, we will share the Catholic faith with them. St. Valentine had the courage to share the Gospel with the man who had the power of life or death over him— and yet most of us won’t broach the topic of faith with our friends out of fear of disapproval. Let’s choose to courageously share the faith we have received with others as God provides opportunity.
Sacrifice – In the modern world, many trivialize love. To most, it is a sentimental feeling or a physical attraction. But that is not real love. Real love always costs something. St. Valentine loved Christ more than himself, and he demonstrated this through the sacrifice of his life. In our marriages and interactions with others, let’s truly love others as Christ loved us—by giving of ourselves until it hurts.
It is ironic that most of the world celebrates St. Valentine’s day, and yet hardly anyone knows about the man they are honoring. Let’s celebrate St. Valentine’s day by imitating his virtues and praying for the courage to be a saint. (Oh, and don’t forget some chocolates for your honey…)
St. Valentine, pray for us!