Flowers, candy, red hearts, and romance. That’s what Valentine’s day is all about, right? Well, maybe not.
The origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn’t romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense. Father Frank O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells the real story of the man behind the holiday—St. Valentine.
“He was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias who persecuted the church at that particular time,” Father O’Gara explains. ” He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.”
“I think we must bear in mind that it was a very permissive society in which Valentine lived,” says Father O’Gara. The idea of encouraging couples to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about but he had to marry them secretly because of the edict.”
Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.
“One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.”
In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.”