Tomorrow is the unofficial feast of St. Valentine.
Why unofficial? Because in the most recent calendar created for celebrating the Saints’ feasts removed Valentine due to there being so little known about him. Instead, we celebrate Sts. Cyril and Methodius on the 14th of February in the liturgy.
Yet there are some things that we at least think we know about St. Valentine, and one of them explains the apparent relationship between his feast and the celebration of romantic love that has overwhelmed it.
St. Valentine appears to have been a Catholic priest in Rome in the time of Emperor Claudius II. He was known for marrying Christian couples and aiding those being persecuted by the emperor. Valentine married them because of his love for God and those couples. They married because of their love for God and for each other. That’s right, Valentine was a man who risked his life to help Christian couples get married. So valued was marriage, and so important and powerful the image of the Triune God which marriage offers to humanity that Valentine put his life on the line to marry these lovers, and they put their lives on the line to get married. Do you know why it was so valued? Why it is so beautiful and powerful? How many today can say that they would marry their spouse if doing so meant possible death? How many priests would risk their lives to aid them? Valentine was eventually caught and imprisoned in Rome. Not content to be idle in prison, he struck up a friendship with the emperor, and then tried to convert him to Christianity. This so enraged Claudius II that he ordered him clubbed, beheaded, and burned. Valentine, whatever else he was, clearly had chutzpah, and would dare anything for his Love.
Indeed, today many people don’t bother with marriage at all. Many aren’t willing to offer their whole selves in marriage, even with so little risk. Others have seen the sky high divorce rate and other issues. They have given up faith in marriage as an institution and any hope that they’ll marry. Yet still we celebrate the feast of St. Valentine. Still we believe in love. Don’t we? Don’t we all deeply desire the kind of love that would die for us? Don’t we all dream of a love so perfect that it would be worth death to dare?
This love has a face, and a Name, and that Name is above all other names: Jesus the Christ. Start with Him, and a relationship with Him, and find out the worlds of love that await.