Wherever you may stand – a message for Valentine's Day
It's another year for Valentine's Day, and though it has come and gone, I've still been hearing people share their plans for the "most romantic holiday of the year."
Curious, as I am, I decided to dig up a little dirt on the legend, where our legendary holiday derives its name – Saint Valentine. I was surprised at what I found, like many.
St. Valentine was, as records state, a widely mysterious individual, as there is not really an overabundance of information regarding one of the Catholic Church's most prominent saints – well, scratch that. There's plenty of information, it's just that most of it isn't entirely reliable information you could take to the bank.
Valentinus, (which is the Latin version of Valentine's name) doesn't appear in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, the Chronography of 354, though it does state that the Valentinus mentioned was stately and wealthy. His name was later found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, which was compiled between 460 and 544 – so, it is partially confirmed that Valentine was a martyr, though history is not one hundred percent convinced.
Valentine (whether it was he or another great man by the same name) was, however, commemorated by the feast of St. Valentine (Feb. 14) in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among all those individuals "…whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God."
What's even more interesting, is that according to the official biography of the Diocese of Terni, Valentine was a Bishop, and was born and raised in Interamna, and while visiting Rome temporarily, he was captured, tortured, and martyred there on Feb. 14, 269.
Of course, this is all to say that history is very unsure of St. Valentine, and if the "martyr" was simply one individual, or a host of others who claimed the same name. It's difficult to pinpoint who exactly Saint Valentine was, as many of the testimonies are historically "unreliable" and approached with speculation.
I was struck by a testimonial writing regarding this man. Valentinus, who was under house arrest by Judge Asterius, was sharing his faith with the judge and discussing the validity of Jesus Christ. Speculative of his claims, the judge put Valentinus to the test and told him he would believe in Christ's power if only he healed his adopted daughter, who was blind.
When Valentinus placed his hands on her eyes, the girl's sight was restored, and the Judge granted him his freedom, while asking what else he should do. Valentinus in turn told him to take down his irected idols, be baptized, and fast for three days. The Judge obeyed, and ended up freeing all the Christian inmates he had imprisoned.
Later, Valentinus would be captured again for speaking the gospel, this time by emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II), and was sentenced to death after the emperor refused conversion.
Whomever Saint Valentine was in history, it is evident to me that history remembered him as a man who was passionate about his Lord, his faith, and was unbothered by the consequences his era promised by being relentless in sharing it.
This history speaks volumes to the present, and the disunity not only in America, but around the world. While this man may not have agreed entirely with the practices of his fellowmen, he saw, however, a common theme within people – the theme of humanity, and everyone's need for unconditional love. No doubt this moved him to share the source of his compassion and love, which ultimately, he was willing to die for.
The same should be said for us. We don't have to agree with, or support, the positions of our fellowmen, or the way they conduct themselves – what beliefs they possess, what they practice, or even how they act. We do, however, have to see them as people; people who make mistakes, are human, and endure hardship.
What's more, if we're people who practice beliefs or hold opinions that our fellowmen may not always like, it is our responsibility to be sure that we respect others' positions – while it is our constitutional right to speak what we feel and believe through freedom of speech, we do not need to tear others down in the name of our rights just because we can. Qui-Gon Jinn, the Jedi from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace stated it best: "Having the ability to speak does not make one intelligent."
The message in the person of Saint Valentine shouldn't be lost, or left behind, simply because it is history. The person of Saint Valentine – a man of vision, words, and love – should spark within us the realization that our words should be for the betterment of others, not the detriment of them.
That goes for both sides of the fence; wherever you may stand.