This morning on the radio I heard Garrison Keilor explaining the origin of St. Valentine's day, which until today, was a mystery to me. The story kept resonating with me, so I did a little more research. The parallels between then and now are notable.
The Passion of Saint Valentine
Although there remains some historical debate, St. Valentine was a Roman Priest during the late 3rd Century BCE who was apparently sympathetic toward the Christians and aided them while his government was actively persecuting them. Claudius II was emperor at that time and was engaged in several unpopular military campaigns to expand the Roman Empire. Claudius could not keep his armies staffed with young men. Thinking that the love of home, family, and spouse was such a disincentive for young men to join the Roman Army, Claudius prohibited marriages. St. Valentine, it appears, was also sympathetic toward people in love, and opted to break Roman law and perform secret weddings. As we might suspect, he was discovered by the Roman authorities and put to death by beating and later beheadded.
Here we are, 18 centuries later, we have our disenfranchised, marginalized groups. We have our unpopular wars. We have a government that seeks to keep marriage illegal for millions of people. We may yearn for a modern day Saint Valentine--one who recognizes the value of love and compassion that cannot be restricted by law. Where is our Saint Valentine today?
As this day of love draws to a close, let us be comforted that many of us carry the passion of St. Valentine in our hearts as we challenge our legislators and the public to make marriage legal for gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender. Let's never forget St. Valentine.