Where is St. Valentine in Valentine’s Day?

JP Dao, UK Chief Executive, GFA World

Valentine’s Day is round the corner, and many of us get caught up in the excitement of sharing a romantic day with our loved ones. Already, preparations are being made all over the country, restaurants with their deals on champagne, teddy bears with love hearts stacking the shelves that recently held advent calendars. But what is less obvious is, where does Valentine’s Day come from?

Compared to some other events in the Christian calendar such as Easter or Christmas, Valentine’s Day usually flies under the radar, if it even makes the Christian calendar at all. Indeed, very few Christians that I know of mark the occasion by celebrating one of the Church’s revered saints. Instead, St. Valentine has largely been lost in the annals of history, and very few of us today know anything about him.

So, who was St. Valentine? And why is it important for churches to remember him?

St. Valentine was a courageous missionary priest and martyr who lived in Rome in the 3rd century – an incredibly dangerous point in history in which to be a Christian. His faith and purported healing of the son of a prominent teacher led to many becoming believers. This miracle, however, also led to St. Valentine’s arrest. But before he was sentenced, St. Valentine healed the judge’s daughter of her lifelong blindness after he had heard of St Valentine’s healings and wanted him to pray for her. The judge then cleared St. Valentine of all charges and let him go free.

At the time, the Roman Emperor Claudius II made a decree that no soldiers could be married, as marriage was seen as a distraction from service to the Empire, and St. Valentine would marry Christian soldiers in secret. St. Valentine did many other things to help Christians who were being persecuted in and around the capital. However, the news reached the ears of the Emperor and St. Valentine found himself in prison once again.

Many of those who helped St. Valentine were also arrested, and he wrote letters to them, encouraging them to run the good race. His letter to the judge’s daughter ended with his signature “from your Valentine”, which has developed into the much-loved phrase we use today. Ultimately, St. Valentine was beaten and beheaded for his faith on February 14th around approximately 270AD.

St. Valentine was a man who loved Jesus Christ, and through whom the power of Christ flowed to minister and to heal. His work opened doors for him to share about the love of Christ with many people, and many found Jesus as a result. He died for sharing his faith and not holding his own life dear to him. So why does the Church not celebrate him?

Persecution and martyrdom continue to exist in the 21st century, and it is reported that over 300 million Christians experienced ‘very high persecution’ in 2022. Thankfully, we also hear frequent reports of God performing powerful miracles of healing in the 21st century as well.

No doubt, there are challenges for Christians in the UK too; our views are strongly challenged and often ridiculed. But just imagine if to be a Christian we had to lose our British citizenship. Or if our children were not permitted to attend certain schools because they are Christian. Or if we were refused work because of our faith. Or if we could not get access to clean water because we attend church. This is what people in some parts of the world are facing.

One of our GFA-supported overseas workers once had his hand broken while sharing Christ’s love in a village as part of our Film Ministry. Others have been beaten and chased out of communities for doing similar things.

Imagine if, for Christians, Valentine’s Day could become about remembering our families and friends overseas who are risking their lives for their faith. Imagine if, instead of just buying our romantic interests chocolate roses or going to the cinema, we stood together in prayer for our brothers and sisters who face the death penalty simply for being believers. Imagine if we came together to support them prayerfully or financially, connecting ourselves with their lives as they see the Lord working through them and answering their prayers with healing and miracles.

The UK church has a long, proud history of supporting our brothers and sisters overseas and in challenging situations. This Valentine’s Day, isn’t that a tradition worth continuing?

To support indigenous overseas workers this Valentine’s season, visit: gfauk.org

Written by: Priscilla Obilana 

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