From Ken Sehested on his wonderfully illuminating Prayer & Politiks site. Subscribe to his weekly e-newsletter here.
Every year, prior to Valentine’s Day (celebrated in a surprising number of countries), children in our church create homemade Valentine’s cards to send to inmates, observing St. Valentine’s Day as the occasion to remember those in prison. Here is a little background.
While the existence of St. Valentine is not in doubt—archeologists have unearthed a chapel built in his honor—reliable accounts of his life are scarce. Which is why, in 1969, the Vatican removed St. Valentine from its official list of feasts.
In ancient Rome lived a man named Valentine (in Latin, Valentinius). He was a priest and a physician but was not free to express his Christian faith without the threat of persecution. He tended to his patients by day and prayed for them by night.
Eventually however, he was arrested for his faith and executed on 14 February 270 during one of the persecutions ordered by Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. In 496, Pope Gelasius I declared 14 February as St. Valentines Day.
It is told that a jailor in the Roman prison had a daughter who was one of Valentine’s patients before he was arrested. He tended her for her blindness, but when he was arrested she still had not regained her sight. Valentine asked the jailor for some parchment and ink. He wrote the girl a note and signed it “From your Valentine.” When she opened the note, a yellow crocus flower fell out of the parchment and it was the first thing she had ever seen. She had received her sight. The crocus is the traditional flower of St. Valentine.