By Chaplain (Capt.) Chris Dorsey
Special to GUIDON
As hearts, chocolates, roses and cupids crowd store shelves, and you struggle to find the perfect gift for your valentine, you might wonder: who was St. Valentine, and what does he have to do with love?
There is little known about the historic St. Valentine. We know he lived in Rome in the third century. He was a priest and bishop who was martyred for his faith and buried on the Via Flaminia, north of Rome on Feb. 14, 269.
These facts explain the date, but seem to beg the question, why would this (most likely celibate) man be made the patron saint of love?
For the answer to this, we must look to the legends of his life. Legend has it that Valentine was arrested when he was caught defying the Roman emperor by secretly performing Christian weddings. The emperor had outlawed weddings because Rome was engaged in many unpopular military expansion campaigns; he needed soldiers and thought that men would be less likely to join if married, and soldiers who were married may be more distracted, so he decreed that all planned weddings and engagements be canceled.
Valentine defied this decree, according to legend, and married couples in secret until his arrest. Risking himself to join these couples in matrimony is the main reason for being named patron saint of love and marriage.
While in prison, his judge, Asterius, spoke with Valentine of the veracity of Jesus, and he decided to put Valentine to the test. If Valentine could cure his blind daughter, Valentine would be released, but if he failed, he would be executed. Valentine laid hands on the girl and healed her, leading to the judge’s family converting to the faith and Valentine being freed, the legend states.
Valentine continued corresponding with the girl and ended his last letter to her before his death thanking her for her friendship, urging her to stay loyal to Christ and signed it “your Valentine.” This is the origin of asking people to be their valentine.
So, this Valentine’s day, don’t take your love for granted. Thank God for those who, like Valentine, put his life on the line for not just his love, but others’, as well.
(Editor’s note: Dorsey is the 84th Chemical Battalion chaplain.)