Sunday, February 14, 2021

St. Valentine's Day 2021 is Here Worcester, Mass.

Ever wondered what the story of St. Valentine is all about?

While not much is known about Saint Valentine (early 200s – late 200s A.D.), his name is recorded in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum," and the "Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine" provides more details including that he was the former bishop of towns in Italy. 

An ancient story tells that while under house arrest by Judge Asterius for sharing about Jesus Christ, Valentinus discussed the validity of the Son of God with his imprisoner. Unconvinced of the miracle of Jesus' death and resurrection, the judge brought his adopted blind daughter to the bishop and said that if Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl's sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on the girl's eyes and the child's vision was restored. Immediately – much like the Philippian jailor after the prison miraculously crumbled and the prisoners remained (see Acts 16:16-34) – Judge Asterius asked Valentinus what he should do. The bishop said that all the idols around the judge's house should be broken, the judge should fast for three days, and then be baptized. Judge Asterius did as Valentinus asked and the judge's entire 40+ member household (i.e. all his family and servants) were baptized as a Christian family. The judge also freed all the other Christian inmates under his authority. 

Valentinus was later arrested again for sharing the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom and was sent to Emperor Claudius himself. Stories also tell that St. Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples, aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome, and secretly marrying couples so husbands wouldn't have to go to war. All acts were considered serious crimes. When the bishop asked Claudius to believe in Jesus, the emperor refused and condemned Valentinus to death by being beaten with clubs first, and then beheaded, if he did not reject his faith in the Son of God. Valentinus refused and Claudius' command was executed in the late part of the third century.

The first romantic celebration of Valentine’s Day occurs in a poem by medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day – an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds and humans come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.

Today, Valentinus has wide-ranging spiritual responsibilities as a patron saint. People call on St. Valentine to watch over the lives of engaged couples and happy marriages, of course, but also ask him to look over those with epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting and traveling. 

During this pandemic, may we also find ourselves being shaped by and sharing Christ's love as we care for each other in Worcester along the way.

Join us in exploring the same love of Christ that shaped St. Valentine.

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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