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Love's Protector: The Story of Valentine's Day

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 7, 2024 3:01 am

Love's Protector: The Story of Valentine's Day

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 7, 2024 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Valentine’s Day began as a feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr. So, how did we get from beheading to betrothing?

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

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Happy streaming! At Navy Federal Credit Union, our members are the mission. Insured by NCUA. This is Our American Stories. Valentine's Day began as a feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third century Christian martyr. So how did we get from a beheading to betrothing?

Here's Greg Hengler. Today, very little is known about the origins of Valentine's Day nor the holiday's namesake. What we do know comes from an order of Belgian monks who spent three centuries collecting evidence for the lives of saints from manuscript archives around the world. They were called Bolandists after Jean Boland, a Jesuit scholar who in 1643 began publishing the massive 68 volumes titled The Lives of the Saints. Since then, successive generations of monks continued the work until the last volume was published in 1940. They dug up every scrap of information about every saint on the liturgical calendar and printed the text arranged according to the saint's feast day.

The volume encompassing February 14th contains the story of Saint Valentine. In the third century, the Roman Empire was being invaded by the Goths. At the same time, smallpox broke out killing up to 5,000 people a day which greatly depleted the number of soldiers in the Roman army, by far the most powerful military in the world. Believing that men fought better if they were not married, the ambitious emperor Claudius II banned marriage in the military. Also, to quell internal rivalries over the previous emperor's assassination, Claudius had the Senate deify him along with the Roman gods and compelled citizens to worship him.

Those who refused to worship the Roman gods were considered unpatriotic enemies of the state and were killed. Saint Valentine was a priest in central Italy. He risked the emperor's wrath by secretly marrying Christian soldiers to their young brides. When Emperor Claudius got word that Valentine was performing these marriages and refused to deny his conscience and worship pagan idols, Valentine was arrested, brought to Rome, and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, young couples that he had secretly wed would visit his cell, passing him notes and flowers between the bars as symbols of their gratitude. During this time, Valentine also shared the gospel with his judge and jailer, Asturias.

Here's Cornet Becker, dean of Regent University. So the judge said to him, well, if this indeed is true, I want you to prove it. And he brought one of his adopted daughters, who happened to be blind, the one legend says. And what happened is that Valentinus, or Valentine here, laid his hands upon this girl, and she was healed immediately. Valentine and the judge's daughter would fall in love, and on Valentine's last night, he wrote a love letter to the jailer's daughter signing it, From Your Valentine. A tradition was born, and to this very day, lovers all over the world sign their Valentine's Day cards with the same signature. Saint Valentine was beaten with clubs and stones, and when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14th, 269 AD. Although Valentine's Day is universally celebrated like Christmas, those who share the faith of Father Valentine find extra encouragement in this day that celebrates love.

Here's Father Dwight Longnecker and Dr. Becker. When we see those hearts on Valentine's Day, we can remember that that heart also has some connections back to the heart of Jesus and to God's love for us. And we can remember that the source of all love and the source of self-sacrifice and love for each other is rooted in God's love and in the witness that Saint Valentine actually made for that love. For Christians, marriage is a holy parable of the love of Christ towards his church.

It's a visible sermon about what holiness and purity could look like in our lives. We should celebrate what true sacrificial love looks like in a broken world. And ultimately, it should be a day that we celebrate the commitment of Christ who gave his life for his church.

It should be a day where we celebrate the power of true love to change our world. In 496 AD, Pope Galatius designated February 14th as Saint Valentine's Day. The love connection solidified more than a thousand years after the martyr's death when Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, decreed the February feast of Saint Valentine's to the mating of birds. He wrote in his poem, The Parliament of Fowls. For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate. Soon, European nobility began sending love notes during the February bird mating season.

Ophelia spoke of herself as Hamlet's Valentine. In the following centuries, English men and women began using February 14th as an excuse to pen verses to their love objects. People often sign Valentine's cards with X's and O's. The Greek name for Christ begins with the letter X. So X became a common abbreviation for the name Christ.

This is why Christmas is abbreviated as Xmas. In medieval times, the X was called Christ's cross, which we now call crisscross. This cross was a form of a written oath, similar to the ancient practice of swearing upon a Bible, saying, so help me God, and then kissing the Bible. People would sign a document with an X or place their signature next to the Christ's cross to swear before Christ.

They would keep the agreement and then kiss it to show their sincerity. This practice has come down to us as sign at the X or I swear cross my heart. This is the origin of signing Valentine's cards and love letters with an X to express a pledge before Christ to be faithful and an O to seal the pledge with a kiss of sincerity. And like the holiday itself, this practice has been transformed into the secular stamp we now know as hugs and kisses. History is intertwined with Valentine's references.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave and separated from his mother as a child. All he remembers is her calling him my little Valentine. Theodore Roosevelt's wife and mother both died on Valentine's Day in 1884, and the Saint Valentine's Day massacre occurred in 1929 during the Prohibition era. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentine's cards in America. Today, according to the greeting card association, an estimated 145 million Valentine's Day cards are sent each year in America. One billion worldwide, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.

Christmas earns the gold medal and Mother's Day gets the bronze. Women purchase approximately 85% of all Valentine's Day cards, but men spend double the amount of money on Valentine's Day gifts than women. The average amount a man spends is $130. Of all the flowers bought on Valentine's Day, 73% of the purchasers are men, and approximately 15% of women send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day. More than 36 million boxes of heart-shaped chocolates are sold, and more than 220 million roses are produced for the holiday in a typical year. Altogether, Americans spend almost $20 billion on Valentine's Day. While the most popular gifts are candy and flowers, nearly 20% of Americans splurge on jewelry, shelling out as much as $4 billion annually.

And those who prefer the ultimate romantic gesture are definitely not alone. A recent survey revealed that as many as 6 million couples are likely to get engaged on February 14th. But if you're worried that you can't afford to treat your loved one properly on Valentine's Day, take heart.

The poets were right. Love is really all you need. It seems that the saint behind the holiday of love remains as elusive as love itself. Still, as St. Augustine, the great 5th century theologian and philosopher argued in his treatise on faith and invisible things, someone does not have to be standing before our eyes for us to love them. And much like love itself, St. Valentine and his reputation as the patron saint of love are not matters of verifiable history, but of faith. I'm Greg Hingler, and from all of us here at Our American Stories, have a lovely Valentine's Day. And what a great story, and one need not be a person of faith to understand so much of this and the sacrificial nature of love, true love, in a broken world. And by the way, what was interesting is that St. Valentine didn't want to take orders from the emperor.

And this country was founded on this notion that we don't pray to our leaders, we pray for our leaders. The story of St. Valentine and the story of Valentine's Day, here on Our American Stories. Thank you so much for joining us, and we'll see you next time. Find the perfect TCL Roku TV for you today at slash TCL Roku TV.

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