“This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.” — John 15:12
Like many, when I turn the calendar to February, I think of Valentine’s Day. We don’t know much about its history or its patron saint. We do know that Valentine’s Day has deeps roots in both Christian and Roman tradition. As for St. Valentine, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of them martyrs with varying legends about what led to their demise.
One legend holds that Valentine was a priest in Rome in the 200’s AD. When the Roman emperor decided that single men were better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Realizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine defied it by performing secret marriages for young lovers. When the emperor learned of this, he ordered Valentine be put to death.
The legends of all three saints highlight a heroic and romantic figure. As a day of romance, Valentine’s Day celebrates that legendary status. It wasn’t until about the Middle Ages, however, that the day was definitively associated with love. Valentine greetings date to at least the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t emerge until after 1400. The oldest known valentine is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
As we commemorate the day with spouses, friends, and loved ones, I hope we’ll also remember Jesus’ command to love one another as he has loved us. Let’s particularly remember those who may feel unloved or unworthy of love, another’s or God’s. In short, may we embody the Lord’s love, wrapping our arms around not only those we know and love but also around any who need to know that love in their lives.
Grace and peace,