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    A Brief History and Application of St. Valentine

    February 14, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I think perhaps the History Channel best summarizes the most popular legend of Saint Valentine in this excerpt:

    Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

    If this is the case, then the exchanging of cards and fine jewelry hardly seem to do the Day justice.

    Now, some would say that Valentine’s Day was yet another papal attempt to christianize a Roman holiday. Nevertheless, I find it appealing to have a day that celebrates not my marriage, but the institution of marriage itself.

    My celebration of this day has varied over the years. When I was single, I bought Valentine cards for my girlfriends, to let them know how much I appreciated them. One year, we threw ourselves a ROTIC {ROmanTIC without the MAN} dinner to mark the occasion {does anyone remember that??}.

    My favorite Valentine’s Day of all time occurred in 2000. Si bought me a card and filled it with the most wonderful thoughts. {Have I ever mentioned what a great writer he is?} We were “just friends” at the time, and yet, when I read what he wrote, I knew we would eventually marry. It was such a strong feeling, that the only word I can use for it now is conviction.

    And, obviously, we did marry. Fifteen months later, to be exact. What a glorious, life-changing day!

    As I reflect on Valentine’s Day, I cannot help but note what it has become. Some sarcastically call it “Singles Awareness Day,” which is about as far from its intended meaning and origination as one can take it. Others seem to believe it to be a celebration of fleshly lusts for the young and beautiful. Awash in the sea of culture, the priest who gave up his life in order to uphold God’s institution of marriage can easily be forgotten.

    Many of you know that Si and I are coleaders of a Newlyweds Ministry at our church. On Sunday, our teacher suggested that the couples discuss their expectations for special events like Valentine’s Day. The more general topic of the day was the effect that unspoken expectations can have upon a marriage, and Valentine’s Day was a specific application of the larger principle.

    I heard murmurs around the room, whispers of gifts and jewelry and dates and flowers {no chocolate anymore–too fattening is my guess}. And as I thought about that ancient martyr, it all seemed strangely out of place. Is that what he died for? So that the members of a culture with a 50%+ divorce rate can shower each other with stuff?

    Don’t get me wrong. I bought Si a little something that he’s going to love. He never buys himself anything, so he’s a joy to buy for. I was referring not to the stuff itself, but the focus on the stuff.

    It seems like there should be more to it. Perhaps a pause, a silent remembering of how one man defied the authorities in support of the right of young love to be satisified within the bounds of marriage. Perhaps a reflection on the importance of marriage within a society. {And I do mean real marriage; not all the mockeries our culture insists on pretending are the real thing. And I do mean the lasting type of marriage; not the sort that ends when the feelings do, but the sort that is broken only by death.}

    And it seems like there should be less to it. Less of the clutter, fewer demands, hearts satisfied not by diamonds and champagne, but by nothing less than the beauty of a pure and steadfast love.

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