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Lat Blaylock, Editor, RE Today
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Patron saint of love
"Happy Valentine's Day!" A common saying on the 14th of February every year.
But did you know that it has its roots in a real person? There are a number of accounts of men called Saint Valentine, with three Saint Valentines listed in the Catholic Encyclopedia. All of these men have a connection with February 14th. However, some feel that these accounts might be different stories about the same man, as some of the details are remarkably similar.
Who was Saint Valentine?
The most commonly held account of Saint Valentine is of a man who lived in the 3rd century AD. Legend has it that he was the Bishop of Terni, which was a large town in Italy. He was arrested because he was trying to persuade people to move away from the pagan religion and become Christians.
Whilst imprisoned at the judge's house - Judge Asterius - Valentine began to talk about his faith. The judge had a blind daughter and challenged Valentine to prove that everything he said about Jesus was real by healing her. The judge said that if God restored his daughter's sight, he would do whatever Valentine wanted.
Valentine prayed and the girl was miraculously healed! Valentine told the judge he should destroy any pagan idols in his house and fast and pray (go without food) for three days then be baptised. The judge did exactly as he was told and then released all the Christians he had imprisoned. His whole family, plus his servants, all became Christians.
Valentine continued to spread the good news about Jesus, so was arrested again. This time he was sent to Rome, to be imprisoned by the Emporer Claudius. Valentine angered Claudius by talking about the importance of salvation offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Claudius ordered Valentine to be executed if he refused to give up his faith. Because he refused, Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, 269 AD.
There are some reports that before he was executed, he wrote a letter to the judge's daughter, the one whose sight had been miraculously restored. He signed the note, 'from your Valentine.' This is what has inspired people to sign their cards with 'from your Valentine' over the centuries.
However, the 14th of February has been linked to love not just because of Saint Valentine, but also because in medieval times it was believed that halfway through the month of February was the time that birds chose their mates. Saint Valentine's day naturally became associated with lovers!