|Priest Valentine relates his
Let me introduce myself. My name is Valentine. I lived in Rome during
the third century. That was long, long ago! At that time, Rome was ruled
by an emperor named Claudius. I didn't like Emperor Claudius, and I wasn't
the only one! A lot of people shared my feelings.
Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to volunteer to
join. Many men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to
leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men
signed up . This made Claudius
furious. So what happened? He had a crazy idea. He thought that if men
were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius
decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law
was cruel. I thought it was preposterous ! I certainly wasn't going to
support that law!
Did I mention that I was a priest? One of my favorite activities was to
marry couples. Even after
Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on performing marriage ceremonies
-- secretly, of course. It was really quite exciting. Imagine a small
candlelit room with only the
bride and groom and myself. We would whisper the words of the ceremony,
listening all the while for the steps of soldiers.
One night, we did hear footsteps. It was scary! Thank goodness the
couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught. (Not quite as light
on my feet as I used to be, I guess.) I was thrown in jail and told that
my punishment was death.
I tried to stay cheerful. And do you know what? Wonderful things
happened. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw
flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too,
believed in love.
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her
father allowed her to visit me in the cell. Sometimes we would sit and
talk for hours. She helped me to keep my spirits up . She agreed that I
did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the
secret marriages. On the day I was to die, I left my friend a little note
thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your
I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on
Valentine's Day. It was written on the day I died, February 14, 269 A.D.
Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they
think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius,
they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh --
because they know that love can't be beaten!