What’s your favorite February holiday? There are several to choose from, of course. There are even some you may never have heard of. Are you passionate for pizza? February 9th is National Pizza Day. Enjoy doing nice things for others? Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17th. Or if you’re more globally minded, there’s February 22nd, International World Thinking Day (though I’m not quite sure what that one’s all about).
But I suspect none of those are your true favorite. If you’re like most, you chose February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Who doesn’t like chocolate, roses, and love?
The holiday was named after St. Valentine. Have you ever wondered who he was?
You’re in for some surprises.
Will The Real St. Valentine Please Stand Up?
The Roman Martyrology is the official record of saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (Protestants have a different definition of “saint,” but we’ll save that for another article). Why am I mentioning this? Because that official record lists three saints named Valentine (or in Latin, “Valentius” or “Valentinus,” meaning strong or powerful). All three lived in the 3rd century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, and all three were executed on February 14th, though in different years.
The first Valentine was a Roman general stationed in North Africa. All we know about him is that he was killed along with 24 of his soldiers. It’s unlikely that he is the St. Valentine associated with the holiday.
But that leaves two other candidates.
Valentine #1: Priest and Physician
This Valentine was a Roman priest and physician who comforted the families of Christian martyrs during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (who was also referred to as “Claudius the Cruel,” for obvious reasons). There are several legends about him.
One story is that the Emperor, hearing of his fame, invited him to the palace and attempted to get him to renounce his Christian faith and worship the Roman gods. Valentine courageously told him that it was a waste of time to worship other gods, since Jesus Christ was the only one who brought hope and the promise of a better world.
The Emperor then put him in the care of a Roman nobleman named Asterius, ordering him to convert Valentine using any argument possible. Asterius had a blind daughter who was healed after Valentine prayed for her. Instead of converting Valentine, Asterius and his entire family became Christians. Enraged, the Emperor ordered Valentine to be executed. (Another version of the legend says that it was the Emperor’s daughter who was healed of blindness, and that before his execution Valentine sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.”)
There is another version of this Valentine’s death. At that time Rome was involved in many military campaigns, but the Empire was having a difficult time getting new soldiers to maintain the ranks. The Emperor believed that Roman men were unwilling to enlist because they were too attached to their wives and families, so he issued a decree banning any further marriages in Rome. Valentine believed the decree was unjust and began performing secret marriages. Eventually this was discovered, and Emperor Claudius ordered him put to death.
There is no way to verify either story. But we do know that on February 14th, 270 A.D., Valentine was beaten with clubs and then beheaded. He was buried near the Via Flaminia, and eventually a church was built on the site.
Valentine #2: Bishop of Terni
Our final Valentine was a Roman bishop in the town of Terni. He was invited to Rome by a famous philosopher and teacher named Crato. Crato had a son who had been born with a curvature of the spine. Crato had sought help from many physicians, but they were all unsuccessful.
Crato asked Valentine to heal his son, offering him half of all he owned. Valentine said his wealth was useless, but the boy would be healed by faith in the one true God. He then prayed, and the boy was miraculously healed. Seeing this, Crato and his entire family were baptized by the bishop. Three of his Greek students were also baptized, along with a Roman student named Abbondius.
As it turned out, Abbondius was the son of a Roman prefect named Placidus. When he heard of his son’s conversion to Christianity, Placidus was so angry that he ordered Valentine to be arrested and beheaded. The execution occurred February 14th on the Via Flaminia at night to avoid rousing the ire of the Christians, whose numbers had grown substantially.
The three Greek converts– Proculus, Ephebus, and Apollonius– brought his body back to Terni and buried him outside the city. Hearing of this, the Roman consul in Terni, Lucentius, had the three students beheaded as well. The Christians in Terni buried them with their beloved bishop.
Okay, which Valentine has your vote?
Before you decide, realize that while these legends are interesting, there’s little physical evidence to support any of them. And to complicate matters even further, some scholars believe that these two Valentines may actually be the same man, because there are so many similarities in their stories!
Who was the real St. Valentine? We may never know. The truth lies hidden in the mists of time. All we can know for certain is that these men lived lives of love– love of God, love for others, sacrificial love.
Not The End Of The Story
There is, however, someone else who lived a life of love– someone else who had a deep love of God, love for others, and sacrificial love. His story is not a legend, but historically verified truth.
His name is Jesus. He’s the Son of God, who came to earth in human form, showed His love in His miracles and teachings, and gave His life on a cross, taking on the sins of the world. He died so that we might be forgiven and set free, healed and made whole, with the promise of a wonderful home in eternity.
Hallmark says, “When you care enough to send the very best.” God cared enough to send His very best– His only son Jesus. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
Accepting Jesus as your Savior is the most important step to living the transformed life. It’s as simple as A-B-C-D:
A — Accept that you have sinned and need God’s forgiveness.
B — Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
C — Confess your sins and ask Jesus to be your Savior.
D — Declare Him as Lord of your life.
If you’ve done that, you just received the best valentine ever!
The mystery of St. Valentine may never be solved. But one thing is certain: your name is now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and your eternal destiny is secure. Your new life has begun, a life of blessings, breakthroughs, and a new beginning.
Welcome to the family!
I hope this article has been a blessing to you. Please consider sharing it on social media. And don’t forget to sign up for your FREE SUBSCRIPTION!
“Little Man, Big Transformation Part 1” http://livingthetransformedlife.com/little-man-big-transformation-part-1
“Little Man, Big Transformation Part 2” http://livingthetransformedlife.com/little-man-big-transformation-part-2