There are different versions about the man Valentine’s Day is named after. I shared one of them in February of 2007.
In that account a young man named Valentine lived in Rome during times of severe persecution against Christians. He wasn’t a Christian, but was sympathetic to their plight. He was imprisoned for this sympathy and became a believer in Christ while incarcerated. On February 14th, 269 A.D. he was beaten to death by clubs.
Tradition says that in prison he sent little notes and messages to his friends saying, “Remember your Valentine” and “I love you.” The pattern was set and Valentine cards have been sent ever since.
Another popular version claims that Valentine was a priest living in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius wanted to rebuild the Roman army, but he believed that young men wouldn’t voluntarily join the army if they had emotional attachments to a wife.
So…he decided to outlaw weddings in the Roman Empire, earning the nick-name of “Claudius the Cruel”.
One of Valentine’s favourite pastoral ministries (and mine for that matter) was marrying people, so he secretly continued to perform marriage ceremonies. The marriages would be quiet and clandestine and he would watch closely for soldiers to avoid being arrested.
One night, while Valentine was conducting an illegal, secret wedding ceremony he was discovered. The couple whose vows he was solemnizing escaped but he was arrested by Roman soldiers and imprisoned.
Valentine tried to remain cheerful in prison and many of the young couples he had married encouraged him by visiting him in jail.
Wanting him to know that they too believed in love and appreciated him, they threw flowers and encouraging notes in through his window.
The daughter of one of the prison guards began visiting him and a bond was formed. Her father gave her special visiting privileges and they sat and talked for hours. She affirmed him for ignoring the Emperor and performing weddings. The day that Valentine was executed, he left her a note thanking her for her loyal friendship signing it, “Love from your Valentine.”
That started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. The note was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D., and this day was set aside in loving remembrance and honour of him.
You can take your pick as to which version is more accurate; I’m really not sure. But I am fairly certain of one thing; Valentine discovered the truth that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And he practiced love in such a way that he impacted others in a positive, practical and enduring fashion.
“Whoever loves much, does much.” Thomas a’ Kempis
Happy Valentine’s Day!