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"Be My Valentine." This is a phrase that conjures up a lot of different images associated with the celebration of Valentine's Day. Cards with hearts and little poems on them. Candy and flowers given to someone you love. And images of cupids flying around shooting their arrows of love into unsuspecting youths. Young and old alike expressing their affection for their sweethearts. February 14th for many means cards, candy, flowers, and cupids.
Our Mothers and Fathers in the Christian Faith would be surprised at what has become of Valentine's Day. What we call Valentine's Day was at one time the Feast of St. Valentine. It was a religious holiday. They would be especially shocked at the use of cupid since he was a character from pagan mythology. For Christians in the past this holiday was a day to remember and celebrate the life and death of a Christian martyr.
According to church tradition St. Valentine was a priest near Rome in about the year 270 A.D. At that time the Roman Emperor was imprisoning Christians for not worshipping the Roman gods. During this persecution Valentine was arrested. Some say he was arrested because he was performing Christian marriages, but others say it was for helping Christians escape prison.
During the trial they asked Valentine what he thought of the Roman gods Jupiter and Mercury. Of course Valentine said they were false gods and that the God that Jesus called Father was the only true God. So the Romans threw him in prison for insulting the gods.
While in prison Valentine continued to minister. He witnessed to the guards. One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter. Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight. The guard and his whole family, 46 people, believed in Jesus and were baptized. Because these people had come to know Jesus, Valentine praised God right there in his prison cell. When the emperor heard about this he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison, so he had Valentine beheaded.
Valentine knew that he might get caught in his Christian activities. He knew that if he told the court the truth about the Roman gods that he would be thrown in prison. And he knew that if he continued to witness to Christ in the prison he would make his captors angry. But he continued, because he loved the Lord and his fellow humans. He was willing to risk his life to free the prisoners and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who needed to hear it.
The Bible Says: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."(John 15:13) God showed us this love by coming in Christ to die for our sins. And St. Valentine demonstrated this love when he died for his friends. This is the kind of love that Valentine's Day is really about.