I wrote this for my personal blog a few years ago. In 2012, Living Lutheran reposted it. Here it is again. For those who prefer a less sentimental Valentine’s Day.
The truth is, we know nothing for sure about anybody named Valentine other than he was martyred, like many other early Christians, on Feb. 14 and is buried outside of Rome.
Maybe there wasn’t even one Valentine. Valentine was actually a pretty common name and there were a lot of Christians martyred in Rome.
Around this time, there was another one of those Roman pagan celebrations of romance. We do love our pagan celebrations. It’s way too complicated to get to the bottom of it.
But around the Middle Ages, you get this wonderful story about a St. Valentine, which like most beautiful stories, is a true story, regardless of whether it really happened
The Roman Emperor Claudius was smart enough to know that bachelors make better soldiers than family men, so Roman soldiers were forbidden to marry.
But Christian soldiers, ever the proponents of “family values,” wanted to get married. Valentine was the priest to oblige them. His acts of civil disobedience ended him up in jail.
His jailer had a lovely blind daughter who came to visit him. He shared the gospel with her and she became a Christian.
Some stories even claim he restored her sight. I prefer to think of her as blind, loving Valentine only through his stories of Christ.
Theirs was a loving friendship, based on Christ.
There’s a romance for you. When he was taken away to be executed, he left her a note encouraging her to be strong in Christ. He signed it “Your Valentine.”
If it didn’t happen, it should have happened.
And I’d be all for recovering a St. Valentine’s Day about civil disobedience — not letting the state tell you whom, or whether, you can marry — and friendship.
Because chocolate is good.
As long as it’s fair-trade chocolate.
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA