This year, my girlfriend and I did not do much on Valentine's Day. While she was called into work early and worked for most of the day, I spent the large part of my day relaxing and reflecting on the history of Valentine’s Day and how we currently celebrate it. Seeing that we are now past February 14th, join me in the next several paragraphs as I revisit some of the thoughts I had that day.
As I sat outside, puffing on a cigar, I was led to think about how we celebrate traditions in our fast paced society, specifically the tradition of Valentine’s Day. Valentine's Day can mean different things to different people, but typically it involves couples expressing their romantic affection for one another with flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinners.
While romance and gestures of kindness are important expressions in a relationship, the origin of Valentine’s Day was not one of romantic love, but of a man named St.Valentinus and his sacrifice. There are a few legends surrounding St. Valentine, but the one account that struck me the most (and the most widely accepted account) is the account in which he sacrificed his life standing up for justice. In a recent interview with Christian Broadcasting Network , Father Frank O'Gara explained the life of St. Valentine well:
“[Valentine] was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called (sic) Claudius who persecuted the church at that particular time,” Father O’Gara explains. “[Claudius] also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.”
St. Valentine continued to marry young couples in secret, despite the emperor's edict banning marriage. Eventually, St. Valentine was caught, thrown in prison and also tortured for his actions against the emperor’s command. Around 269 AD, St. Valentine was sentenced to death. His execution was threefold: He was beaten, stoned, and then decapitated for his faith. Even now, after February 14th has come and gone, I continue to ponder the history of St. Valentine and wonder about our current way of celebrating romantic love with such shallow niceties.
I could talk about how frustrated I am with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day and many other silly things, but I do not think this is the place for that sort of ranting. I will only leave you with a question to reflect on in your own heart: Do you live with enough conviction to die for what you believe in and to give up your life for another? It is a tough question, but if we are being honest, answering the question will always be easier than answering the call.