How did Valentine’s Day begin? Some connect it with an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia. Some connect it with one or more saints of the early Christian church named Valentine. And some connect it with an old English belief that birds choose their mates on February 14. Here I’ll share the story that has come down about one (or more) of the saints.
Valentine or Valentinus was a priest who lived in Rome during the third century.
The Roman Emperor Claudius II thought that single men made better soldiers than men with wives and families and passed a law forbidding young men to marry. Valentine maintained that marriage was part of God’s plan for the world and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. He also aided Christians who were persecuted by Claudius. He was caught and imprisoned.
Many young people visited Valentine at the jail. They threw flowers and notes through the bars of his cell window. One of the young people was his jailer’s blind daughter. Her father let her visit Valentine in his cell, where sometimes they sat and talked for hours. According to one story, Valentine laid his hands upon the girl’s eyes and her sight was restored.
Claudius took a liking for the prisoner. However when Valentine tried to convert him, Claudius refused and condemned him to death.
On the day that he was to be executed, Valentine wrote the jailor’s daughter a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty and signing it, “Love from your Valentine.”
Valentine was beaten with clubs and stoned and, when that didn’t kill him, was beheaded. The date was February 14, 269 A.D.
In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius named February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in honour of Valentine’s martyrdom. Although Valentine greetings became popular in the Middle Ages, written valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400 A.D. The oldest still in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt (a battle between the English and French in France).
Now every year on February 14 people give greeting cards called valentines (and other gifts such as candy and flowers) to their sweethearts, family members, and friends.
In my next two posts I’ll share two papers that I wrote as sequels to the paper that I shared last week,”O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die?”–“God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom” and “From Everlasting to Everlasting, Thou Art God.”