Saint Valentine was a Roman priest during the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius. Emperor Claudius was a persecutor of the Church and had instituted a law that said young people could not get married without his approval. The reason being that all young, fit men were required to be soldiers, and as a result of that inscription a married soldier was not as good or loyal to the “cause” of the kingdom, as an unmarried man who had no family to worry about at home.
Polygamy was not frowned upon either, during those days, which promoted a lesser degree of loyalty to families and relationships, again creating a better soldier whose main concern was fighting. The Church, however, was on the opposite end of that spectrum. They taught that marriage was sacred, with God’s sanctions, and it highly encouraged couples to get married. But, alas, Claudius forbid marriages without his approval.
So, to encourage the faith and teachings of the Church, Saint Valentine would marry couples in secret, until such time as he got caught and put in prison. He was tortured, beaten, and starved during much of his imprisonment until his sentencing which included the beatings, a stoning, and then decapitation, all this for refusing to denounce his faith in Jesus Christ. There is a story about one of his captors named Asterius who had a blind daughter. While in prison Saint Valentine prayed for her and her blindness was healed resulting in the emotional conversion of Asterius to the Church.
Just before his final death blow was carried out he wrote a note to the daughter of Asterius stating, “From your Valentine.” This statement has become a national greeting for thousands that pay homage to Saint Valentine, with flowers, candy, hearts, and poems.
Valentine was declared a saint on February 14, 496 AD by Pope Gelasius. Today, many people make a pilgrimage to the Whitefriars Street Church, which claims to have the remains of Saint Valentine interred there in order to honor the courage and memory and unwavering faith of this Christian man.
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