The Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-70, is said to have been a large and fierce man. In his efforts to fight the invading Goths and Germans, he attempted to increase the size of the Roman army. Volunteers were few, due largely to what was essentially a life-long commitment of being a Roman soldier. Legend has it that the Emperor believed young men weren’t joining because they were too comfortable and too interested in pursuing women. (Some things never change. My classmates in college often were incredulous that I was volunteering for military service. I was often asked “Why?!”.) With dictatorial efficiency, Claudius solved that problem by simply outlawing marriage.
One problem, legend has it that the Priest Valentinus continued to marry Christians. When called before the Emperor, Valentinus refused to acknowledge the Roman Gods and reportedly witnessed to Claudius the truths of Jesus Christ. Claudius had Valentinus killed.
A few observations from this legend of Valentine, whom we celebrate each year with a festival of love and affection. He was martyred over refusing to surrender the sacrament of marriage to Rome and for proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ to a pagan emperor. This legendary Valentine sounds more like a man passionate for Christ and the integrity of the church and its sacraments than he does the ruby little cherubs we see on the front of Valentines Day cards who are committed to spreading kisses and romantic mischief.
If we want to celebrate Valentines Day consistent with the man for whom the day is named, we should honor this legendary martyr through observances he would approve and that would be consistent with his life. Foremost, we should take the opportunity to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to someone.
Second, we should look for a way to support the sacrament of marriage. For those of us married, that should start with tending to our own marriages. Are we entirely faithful – not just physically, but also emotionally, in our relations, and with our time as well – to our life mate? We should pray over our marriage, with our spouse. For those not married, give an encouraging word to your married friends and pray today for their marriages. Tell them you are praying for them.
Third, recommit today to loving in a manner worthy of our Christian calling — with all that we have and all that we are. We are called not just to love others and God with all that we are, but to love also our enemies and those we just do not like. May Christ so strengthens us.
God bless and Happy Valentines Day.
Update: A Godly Valentines Day Gift from a husband to a wife: commit to praying with your bride – see Spiritual Intimacy a Marriage ‘Game Changer’