Friday, February 14, 2014


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
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. "Polygamy would have been much more
popular than just one woman and one man living
together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted
to Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that
marriage was very sacred between one man and one
woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged.
And so it immediately presented the problem to the
Christian church of what to do about this."
"The idea of encouraging them to marry within the
Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he
secretly married them because of the edict."

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and
tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against
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

"What Valentine means to me as a priest," explains
Father O'Gara, " is that there comes a time where you
have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe.
And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that --
even to the point of death."

Valentine's martyrdom has not gone unnoticed by the
general public. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to
the church to honor the courage and memory of this
Christian saint.

"Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of
lovers. Before you enter into a Christian marriage you
want some sense of God in your life -- some great need
of God in your life. And we know, particularly in the
modern world, many people are meeting God through
his Son, Jesus Christ."

"If Valentine were here today, he would say to married
couples that there comes a time where you're going to
have to suffer. It's not going to be easy to maintain
your commitment and your vows in marriage. Don't be
surprised if the 'gushing' love that you have for
someone changes to something less "gushing" but
maybe much more mature. And the question is, is that
young person ready for that?"

"So on the day of the marriage they have to take that
into context," Father O'Gara says. "Love -- human love
and sexuality is wonderful, and blessed by God -- but
also the shadow of the cross. That's what Valentine
means to me."


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