The Story of Valentine’s Day

Yesterday, I’m in Norwich, Vermont. As I walk down the street, a young man carrying a

4 foot stuffed bear (in a snow storm) greets his girlfriend and presents her with the bear. The

girlfriend was quite smitten with the bear. She hugged and kissed the bear repeatedly. I got the

feeling that the boyfriend wished his girlfriend was as affectionate with him as she was with the

bear – maybe later.

When I got back to the office, there was a box of goodies for me. A co-employee was

kind enough to leave some chocolates and fruit – not only for me but for others within the

building. It was a wonderful surprise. I quickly gulped down four chocolates and then felt

immediately guilty for having done so.

My wife is currently in Florida. Although she is away, I received a very nice Valentine’s

Day card from here. Inside the card was $1. That has been our ritual for many years. When we

exchange cards, we stick a dollar in the card. It always brings a smile to our face. It must remind

us of when we were kids and our parents or a relative would stick a buck in the card.

All this good cheer made me want to research the origin of Valentine’s Day. So, grab a

chocolate strawberry and snuggle up to the bear. I will tell you the story.

It’s the third century. There’s this wicked Roman emperor named Claudius II. There is

also this Christian fellow named Valentinus. Claudius orders all Romans to worship twelve

gods. He also makes it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians (this really hurts

me as we aren’t that bad). Valentinus is dedicated to the ideals of Christ, so he isn’t deterred by

Claudius’s threats. Valentinus is resigned to practicing his beliefs but for his efforts, Valeninus

is arrested and imprisoned.

During the last weeks of Valentinus’s life, Valeninus makes a friend of his jailer. The

jailer sees that Valeninus is a learned man and a good teacher. The jailer asks whether his

daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. The daughter has been blind since

birth. Julia is a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus greets the young girl and reads

stories of Rome’s history to her. He describes the world of nature to her. He teaches her

arithmetic and tells her about God. Julia then sees the world through Valeninus’s eyes. She

begins to trust Valeninus. She begins to love being around him.

Julia asks Valeninus: “Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?” “Yes, my child,

He hears each one.” “Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I

might see. I want so much to see everything you’ve told me about!” “God does what is best for

us if we will only believe in Him,” Valentinus said. “Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!” She

knelt and grasped his hand. They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly there was a

brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”

“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.

On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to

God. He signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Valentinus was executed the next day – February 14, 270 A.D. This was not a happy

ending. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the

almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.

So – this is how Valentine’s Day began. Now, on each February 14, Saint Valentine’s

Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world. Enjoy your

bear, your chocolate strawberries, and the hugs and kisses that go with all of this and thank Saint

Valentine for starting the tradition.

 

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