February 14, 2020


St. Valentine’s Day: A Celebration of Civil Disobedience

By: Mary McPherson

It’s time to set the record straight on St. Valentine. We all tend to think of Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic love, flowers, and sweet little cards. Indeed, Valentine’s Day lives on as a celebration of love and letters for a reason. But did you know that St. Valentine’s real legacy lies in his courageous opposition to a tyrannical government?

Valentine was a priest living in the third century under the iron fist of Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. The emperor was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of his propensity for abusive ruling tactics and his insatiable hunger for warfare. In fact, Claudius loved war so much that he decided to put a stop to all new marriages so that his soldiers would not be distracted with any competing interests. He believed young men were reluctant to join his army and fight his wars because they did not want to leave their families behind, and so he cancelled all engagements and weddings across the empire. Thousands of young couples had their hopes of marriage destroyed by the single edict of a tyrant.

Now most would not dare stand up to the ruler of the Roman Empire. However, as a Christian and a priest, Valentine believed the authority to marry belonged to God and to individuals alone. He defied the emperor’s law and began marrying young couples in secret ceremonies. Claudius found out about Valentine’s defiance and threw him into jail with a death sentence.

While he was imprisoned, Valentine received many letters from the local children, and he also developed a bond with the jailer’s blind daughter. He would read to and instruct the blind girl, and she would serve him food and care for his needs. Legend has it that, as he was nearing death, he wrote her a final note of encouragement and signed it “Your Valentine.” It was said that the note miraculously healed the girl from her blindness. 

During Valentine’s time in jail, the emperor offered him one last chance to renounce his Christian faith and his defiance of the emperor’s monopoly on power. Valentine’s steadfast commitment to his principles cost him his life. Valentine refused to bow to the emperor and was clubbed, stoned, and beheaded. So as you’re opening up that bottle of wine this Valentine’s Day be sure to toast to St. Valentine and his courageous stand for love, conscience, and freedom!