[February 14, 2021] On this date, February 14 in 270 AD, Valentine, a Catholic Priest, is executed by Roman Emperor Claudius II for marrying young Christian lovers. The people knew Claudius as “Claudius the Cruel.” What can we learn from the events in the life of who we know today as St. Valentine?
First, a little context about the Roman Empire at this time.
At the time of Claudius’ accession as Emperor, the Roman Empire was in danger from several major incursions, both within and outside its borders. The Goths, for example, were an existential threat to the Romans. Shortly after Claudius was named Emperor, he won his most significant victory and one of the greatest in Roman arms’ history at the Battle of Naissus, where his forces routed a massive Gothic army.
Claudius was seen as a “cruel” ruler by many of his time, which has given way to a negative, brutish view of him. However, given his successes by defeating major enemies of the Empire, we gain some insight into the circumstances of that day
Catholic Priest Valentine comes into the sights of Claudius.
Emperor Claudius was having trouble getting soldiers for his army Legions because they wanted to stay with their wives and children. One way he improved the manpower pool and enlarge his armies was that Claudius banned marriage and forbade priests from marrying. He believed that married men would be distracted by their wives and children and make poor soldiers.
Valentine, feeling the plight of the young lovers, continued to marry them in secret. Of course, the Emperor found out and had Valentine jailed. Claudius took a liking to Valentine until the priest tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity. Claudius refused and condemned Valentine to death. It was commanded that Valentine either renounce his faith or he would be beaten, tortured, and then executed.
On February 14, 270 AD, he was beaten and beheaded. Shortly before he was executed, he allegedly wrote a note to one of the guard’s daughters, signing it “Your Valentine.”
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as Valentine’s Day for his defense of love and marriage. Priest Valentine was loyal and courageous. Nothing can deny those characteristics, and that is why we hold him in such high regard.