Have you ever wondered where Valentine’s Day comes from?
According to legend, as early as the fourth century B.C., the Romans engaged in an annual young man’s rite to passage to the god Lupercus. The names of the teenage women were placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus, a man was assigned a woman companion for the duration of the year, after which another lottery was staged.
After eight hundred years of this, the early church fathers sought to end this practice and promote monogamy. They found an answer in Valentine, a bishop who had been martyred some two hundred years earlier. According to church tradition, St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time, the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, had issued an edict forbidding marriage. This was around when the heyday of Roman Empire had almost come to an end.
When Claudius became the emperor, he discerned that married men were more emotionally attached to their families, and thus, would not make good soldiers. So to assure quality soldiers, he banned marriage.
Valentine, a bishop who witnessed the trauma of young lovers, met them in a secret place and joined them in the sacrament of matrimony. Claudius learned of this “friend of lovers,” and had him arrested. The emperor, impressed with the young priest’s dignity and conviction, attempted to convert him to the Roman gods, to save him from certain execution. Valentine refused to recognize Roman gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing the consequences fully.
On February 24, 270, Valentine was executed.
While Valentine was in prison awaiting his fate, he came in contact with his jailor, Asterius. The jailor had a blind daughter. Asterius requested him to heal his daughter. Through his faith, he miraculously restored girl’s sight. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her, “From Your Valentine.” A phrase that lived ever after.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!