Remembering Valentine

by Rolaant McKenzie

According to church historical tradition, Valentinus (the Latin version of Valentine) was a pastor who ministered in Umbria, central Italy, during the Roman persecution against Christians in the 3rd century. As he preached the gospel, he secretly protected believers from the government by hiding them.

Valentinus was eventually placed under house arrest for his evangelistic efforts and helping Christians, which was a serious crime. Especially for disobeying the order against marrying Christian couples, allowing the husbands to escape conscription into the Roman army. Roman soldiers were in short supply at this time, and it was the view of the Roman government that married men would be ineffective fighters and therefore a hindrance to the security of the empire. This account also mentions that in order to remind husbands of their vows and God's love, Valentinus would cut hearts from parchment and give them to these persecuted Christians.

During this time of imprisonment, Valentinus had the opportunity to discuss his faith in Jesus with Asterius, the judge overseeing his case. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him his adopted daughter who suffered from blindness. Asterius challenged Valentinus that if he succeeded in restoring the girl's sight, he would grant whatever request he made. Valentinus, praying to God, laid his hands on her eyes and the child's vision was restored.

Astonished and overwhelmed with joy, the judge asked Valentinus what he wanted. Valentinus called on Asterius to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, asked that all of the idols around his house be removed and destroyed, that he fast for three days, and that he be baptized. The judge did as Valentinus asked, and as a result his household of more than 40 family members and servants also believed and were baptized. Asterius also freed all of the Christian prisoners under his jurisdiction.

Valentinus continued to preach the gospel and minister to the faithful and was arrested again. This time he was taken to Rome to be judged by emperor Claudius Gothicus himself. Claudius took a liking to Valentinus and may have been lenient with him until he sought to convince him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Becoming enraged, Claudius refused and commanded him to renounce his faith or else he would be condemned to death by being beaten with clubs and beheaded.

During his last days, Valentinus often thought of his family and friends (including the daughter of Asterius). Since they were forbidden to visit, they developed a unique way of sending messages to each other. He would squeeze his arm through the bars in his window to reach the violets that grew outside. Each day, after picking a heart-shaped leaf, he would carefully pierce it with a message like "From your Valentinus." He would then send it to his loved ones by way of homing pigeons supplied by his family. Toward the end of his life the message changed to a simple, "I love you."

Even after enduring tortuous punishments, and offers of wealth and position along with his freedom, Valentinus refused to renounce his Christian faith and turn away from the Lord he had grown to love, he was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 AD.

For Valentinus, love was more than the mushy gushy stuff we think of today. It was above sentimental feelings or infatuation. It was deeper than sexual attraction or physical desire. It was a love tough enough to survive the rugged times of life.

Love is more than a feeling that comes and goes. It is not based on circumstance, climate, clothes, character or come-ons. It is a commitment that carries a price tag. It demands action.

It means caring for a person even if they are in a bitter angry mood. It means putting the other person's needs, desires and wishes before yours. It means going out of your way to accept, respect and forgive.

This Valentine's Day, remember Valentine.

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