"No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."
St. Valentine is a notoriously difficult figure to historically pin down, partly due to the fact that several early Christian martyrs bore the name Valentine. Nevertheless, this elusive figure went on to become strongly associated with romance and love. Whoever St. Valentine really was, he was no doubt spiritually influenced by many quotes from the New Testament. For example, 1 John 4:11-12 tells us that:
"Since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."
St. Valentine took this Biblical calling to heart and, as some stories go, eventually became a martyr for the Christian cause of love, holding strongly to his faith no matter what obstacles he faced. Today, many people trace popular Valentine's Day practices back to the actions of St. Valentine while he was alive in Rome during the 3rd century.
There is very little by way of concrete facts that can be said about the life of this Saint, but there is no shortage of legends that have sprung up around him. These legends paint the picture of a very inspiring figure who made it his personal mission to spread the love of God around the Roman world.
St. Valentine the Wedding Minister
One of the most important parts of St. Valentine's legend is the claim that he performed illicit weddings for Roman soldiers. It is said that Emperor Claudius II forbade these weddings because of the belief that unmarried men made better soldiers.
After performing the weddings, St. Valentine gave heart-shaped parchment to the soldiers in order to remind them of their vows. This part of the legend is likely what inspired the practices of giving cards and of using heart symbols during Valentine's Day festivities.
St. Valentine the Martyr
This practice of marrying soldiers in a Christian wedding ceremony brought St. Valentine to the attention of the Emperor. Claudius II had St. Valentine interrogated, but was purportedly impressed with the Saint and attempted to convert him to paganism. Valentine, who would have none of it, tried in return to convert the Emperor to Christianity. Unfortunately, Claudius II sentenced him to be executed for it.
St. Valentine the Miracle Worker
Prior to his execution, St. Valentine was jailed by a jailer known as Asterius. Asterius had a blind daughter named Julia. It is said that St. Valentine performed a miracle and cured Julia of her blindness. As a result of this miracle, Asterius and the 44 members of his household converted to Christianity and were baptized.
St. Valentine the Letter Writer
Despite his conversion, Asterius could do nothing to help St. Valentine, who was still sentenced to execution by Claudius II. St. Valentine's execution drew nearer, and on the night before it was scheduled, he wrote a letter to Julia. This letter is considered to be the very first Valentine's card, as St. Valentine is said to have signed it "your Valentine," an expression which now refers to your object of affection on Valentine's Day.
St. Valentine and His Amethyst Ring
St. Valentine left us with many symbols and ideas which still shape Valentine's Day to this day. One lesser known symbol is his amethyst ring, which he is said to have worn while performing the illegal marriages of soldiers described above. Amethyst later came to be associated with love for this very reason.
Such a ring could also make a romantic present for that special someone for Valentine's Day. What better gift than the very stone associated with the namesake of the holiday when we celebrate love?