Saint Valentine lived in Rome in the third century and was a priest who helped the martyrs during the persecution of Emperor Claudius II the Goth. The great virtue and catechetical activities of the Saint had become known. For this he was arrested and brought before the imperial court. St. Valentine along with other Christians, after they were tortured, were beheaded on 14 February in the year 268 or 269.
After the martyrdom some Christians salvaged the body of Saint Valentine and put a bit of his blood in a vile. The body of the Martyr was moved and buried in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla, a burial place of most of the martyrs. Over the years somehow he was “forgotten”, since almost every day there were buried in these catacombs new martyrs for several decades. The memory of St. Valentine however remained robust, particularly in the local Church of Rome. Officially the memory of St. Valentine was established in 496 by Pope St. Gelasius.
In 1815, the relics were donated by the Pope to an Italian priest according to the custom of the time. After the death of the priest, a descendant of the priest who inherited the relics migrated to Mytilene (Greece), which was then a thriving community of West-European Catholic Christians. The relics remained there until 1990 when they were moved to Athens in the Church of Saints Francis and Clara’s Italian community, where they are today.
Saint Valentine had a reputation as a peacemaker, and legend relates that one day while cultivating some roses from his garden, he heard a couple quarrel very vigorously. This Saint cut a rose and approached the couple asking them to hear him. Afterwards St. Valentines blessed and gifted them with one of His roses. Immediately the love returned between them, and they later returned and asked the Saint to bless their marriage.
On this Valentine’s Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of love that transcends chocolate and flowers. The gospel of Saint John (15:12-13) says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Christ calls us to love one another in word and in action. St. Valentine paid the ultimate price for his love of Christ, demonstrating to us that true love can be costly. In what ways are you “laying down your life” for others? In all circumstances take hope, for God is with us!