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Who was Saint Valentine?

RWC tutor Jack Stewart gives some background on the figure who inspired the celebration of Valentine's Day.

As with many religious figures in the Roman empire, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred when discussing St. Valentine. This article is written from resources online; you are welcome to conduct your research and come to a conclusion.

Valentine lived approximately 300 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. The reigning power in St. Valentine’s time was the Roman Empire. Valentine was a Christian long before Christianity became a major world religion. Christianity’s central beliefs brought it into direct conflict with the Imperial Cult, the common belief system in the Roman Empire.

The Emperor during Valentine’s time decreed that Christian soldiers were forbidden from marrying. The Emperor wanted these Christian soldiers to fight his wars and couldn’t have them be distracted by marriage. Valentine didn’t agree with this practice and, in secret, officiated the marriages of these Christian soldiers.

Imagine a nation where you are a religious minority. Your emperor has expressly forbade you from marrying and instead asks you to go fight and likely die in the most brutal fashion. Enter Valentine, a benevolent and holy person, willing to marry you in secret, at no cost, simply because it is the right thing to do. No wonder he became a saint.

The long arm of the law eventually caught up with Valentine, and he was imprisoned for disobeying the Emperor’s decree. In prison, Valentine continued to be a beacon of hope. It is said that he cured the jailer’s daughter of blindness. In witnessing this supposed miracle, the jailer then converted his entire family, house servants and all, to Christianity.

Valentine, however, crossed the line when he tried to similarly convert another more powerful figure (the jury is still out as to who this figure actually was). The more powerful figure did not take kindly to Valentine’s attempts to convert him to Christianity and instead ordered Valentine’s execution.

Remember the jailer’s daughter? supposedly, after Valentine cured her of blindness, the two fell in love. On the eve of his execution, Valentine sent a letter to his lover signed simply “Your Valentine.” Then he was executed.

If you were looking for a happier ending for our hero, you can stop looking. Remember, these were harsh times, and most saints only become saints upon their death or martyrdom (great vocab word).

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