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Will the real St. Valentine please stand up?

Valentine’s Day. I know, I know – you either love it or hate it. What’s the deal with this holiday, anyway? Flowers, chocolate, conversation hearts…how exactly did February 14 come to stand for all of this craziness?

Now that I’m older and my own children are exchanging Valentines with classmates and friends, I don’t feel all of the weirdness, mixed emotions, and denial of expectations that I—and, I think, so many of us—often deal with this time of year.

(Valentine’s Day—who cares? I don’t need a Valentine to know I’m special. It’s just a stupid made-up holiday, created by Hallmark, designed to make lonely people feel even worse. I don’t care at all. WHAT?!? You forgot about Valentine’s Day? How could you?!? I know I said I don’t care but that’s not what I MEANT!)

But here’s the thing: Valentine’s Day is actually one of the oldest holidays we celebrate. And it’s named after St. Valentine, who was a real person.

There are a few early Christian saints that were named Valentine, but the day is most likely named after one in particular: a third century Roman priest. At the time, the Roman empire was falling apart under Claudius II; three different states warred for control and the armies needed every able man.

Apparently, Claudius thought soldiers were better at their job if they were single, so he actually banned marriage. Can you imagine? A priest named Valentine had other ideas.

Despite the risks, Valentine decided to perform marriages in secret—but he got caught. And as a punishment, he was imprisoned and then eventually beheaded. The Church pronounced him a martyr and a saint, and in the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.

Saint Valentine

A priest who was imprisoned and beheaded is now celebrated each year with flowers, chocolates, and possibly, a few guilt trips. I think it offers us a little perspective. St. Valentine performed those marriages because he believed it was the right thing to do. He believed in marriage and, maybe, he believed in love. And he believed in those things deeply enough to risk his own life for them.

What do you believe in? Whom do you love? Do you believe it so deeply, or love him or her so truly, that you would sacrifice yourself?

Today, if there’s no one to send you flowers—if no one brings you chocolates or candy hearts, if the Hallmark card doesn’t land in your mailbox or on your kitchen table, I get it. I’ve been there. I know that no matter how much you don’t want to care, a tiny part of you still might. I still might. Married or single, no one is immune to it.

This year, I’m meditating on St. Valentine, and how he gave himself up so that others could love. What better way to honor him than to lay aside my own desires and wants, and love the people right in front of me—whomever they might be—with all that I have?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. betsydecruz

    Yes, Katie! Valentine’s Day can raise expectations of receiving tokens of love and appreciation. But I often don’t think as much about how I can be the one to show love to those in front of me. I honored St. Valentine by cooking a special breakfast, but I suspect he’d be more honored if I try to be more intentional this week about listening to my husband and kids.

  2. Crystal

    Love this challenge, Katie!

  3. Denise

    Or make it ALL about JESUS & what He did for each & everyone of us. I choose to Share the LOVE of JESUS & forget about myself if not, just for today & make this day, Valentine’s Day; ALL about serving others.

  4. Olivia

    I loved this. I had no idea. The theme song for those reading commericals is streaming through my head… “the more you knowwww.” 🙂

    Also, I just wanted to send some positive energy your way. I just finished “Enough” chapter 18 of your book, and I honestly think that one chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book. You should have sold it for $50, ha!

    You are helping shape my goals and family life- for the better.
    Thank you.

    • Olivia

      Opps, sorry Katie, the first part is for you, the second for Tsh 🙂

  5. Andrea

    Love your challenge! My daughter came home from school telling me all about St. Valentine earlier this week. I learned something from her. So nice to know this holiday is about someone other than Cupid!

  6. Jen Hanson

    I never knew the history behind this holiday – how cool! Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Danielle

    I so WISH more people knew about the rich history of Valentine’s Day. When people complain it’s something Hallmark made up, I want to say, “no way!” Saint Valentine sacrificed his life for his Christian beliefs and for sharing love with so many around him. It is said he sent hearts to Christians in prison to encourage them in their faith and remind them of Christ’s love. With that example in mind, it should enlarge our perspective in how we celebrate the day and how we do it. It can be expanded to more than romantic love, as wonderful as that can be too.

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