This young priest was subversive and went against the “norms” of the day. In particular he officiated at “illegitimate” marriage ceremonies.
The Emperor thought that married men made poor soldiers and so “outlawed” the marriage of young people. Valentine, however, maintained that marriage was part of God’s plan and purpose for the world. He continued to conduct marriages in secret between young people, sometimes as young as twelve, in the name of love. He also aided persecuted Christians. (This comparatively young age of consent was the case in the UK until the early 20th Century)
This secret activity gained him notoriety and he was jailed and beheaded. However, he also fell in love with his warder’s daughter and on the day of his martyrdom passed on a note to her – “from your Valentine” – which some say started the tradition still observed.
Valentine’s courage in standing up for those on the margins of Roman Society inspires us. .
Marriage as “part of God’s plan and purpose” resonates particularly at this time when our Archbishops are publicly apologising for making crass statements with regard to heterosexual civil partnerships and same gender marriage.
“God is love” (I John 4:8) and none of us knows or experiences the full extent of that Love because it is so immense and wonderful – but, we all glimpse and know what that statement means. Valentine, in breaking the law and officiating at young people’s weddings allowed them to experience and glimpse something of that love. In gently challenging the law he showed courage and determination and is an example to us.
Our Christian faith asks that we do not close our minds and lock God’s Love up so that only the “worthy” can experience it. As an only child I have never experienced the love which exists between siblings – but I see and know that it exists. Marriage and partnership between two people is a public statement of a love and bond which can only be of God.
Like him may we seek out and stand up against law and convention which result in people not being able to be true to themselves and before God.
Action: Send an appreciative message or a Valentine on or around St Valentine’s Day (February 14th) to someone.
A Prayer: God of power and might, Thank you for the gift of Love his Valentine’s Day, and for all the people whose love shines in my life. Continue to fill my heart with Your love and let me share that love with the world this Valentine’s Day and always. Amen.