The Courage of Valentinus

by Anna

I only ever once got something resembling a love letter, and I don’t think it was even on Valentine’s Day. Reason to worry? Not really. Life is still worth living even if we don’t receive any Valentine’s cards or presents!

It took some effort on my part to get some of my past boyfriends to get me something for Valentine’s. Why? Because they didn’t believe in the consumerism of it whereas I was mesmerized by the idea of romance. It’s no surprise, considering you will see heart-shaped balloons, red roses and special chocolate tins plus all the cute cuddly teddy bears everywhere in the weeks running up to February 14th.

Now then, what happened that shaped this custom of ours?

There seems to be a bit of guess-work going on around the origin of Valentine’s Day. In the third century, there were actually three Valentinuses, who allegedly all died on February 14th. Most seem to put their bet on St Valentinus of Rome, who married couples against the law under the reign of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270. He was ultimately found out and imprisoned. While in prison, he was asked to teach the daughter of a prison guard, to whom he wrote a letter the day before his death signed “from your Valentine”. It is likely that any records of Saint Valentine were destroyed during the Diocletianic Persecution at the beginning of the 4th century.

I was made aware of this little cartoon for those visual learners out there 🙂

I really wish I still had the post card that was pushed through underneath our front door a good 25 years ago. I remember that it had a print of a painting with some field mice in a garden, a typical children’s book picture. We had just learned writing, accordingly, on the back, my admirer had written in big capital letters that he liked me. In between each word he had drawn a plump big red heart. Unfortunately, this card has vanished somewhere along my life.

Next week I will be running a mini retreat on “Finding your Inner Valentine“. Our retreats take place every second Thursday of the month and this one coincidentally fell exactly on Valentine’s Day. One of the co-founders said at first that we are probably unlikely to get people in on that day. But I thought that it would be perfect for all the singles out there, to give them the opportunity to treat themselves to something good. And surprisingly, or not, we were booked out quite quickly.

The question now is what these participants expect. I sometimes use my blogs as inspirational handouts and wanted to produce one of them for the Valentine’s retreat. But the information I researched just doesn’t resonate with me. It doesn’t touch my heart, even despite Valentine’s typical symbolism being a heart. So what can we draw from the original story of St Valentinus of Rome?

He definitely fought for his beliefs. Christianity was suppressed by the Romans, but Valentinus wasn’t prepared to just drop his belief. He had the courage to carry on, to still offer those in love the holy sacrament of marriage. Even when he got imprisoned for it, he still taught the prison guard’s daughter about life and his belief. The story goes that she was born blind but together with what she had learned about God by Valentinus and her own belief formed following the teaching, it is said that she was able to see.

We don’t know if this really happened, but do we need to know the facts in order to belief? Let’s take this simple little story and belief in ourselves, our strengths, possibilities and the person we are. Take up the courage to do with our life what we believe to be right. And maybe, instead of just throwing chocolates and flowers at those dear to us, begin to see these qualities in them as much as we see them in ourself.

It surely takes courage to tell someone how you feel about them. You won’t know what the other is feeling until you made the first step. Leaving fears and worries behind, the pure acknowledgement of another person, believing in them no matter what,that, to me, is an essence to Valentine’s Day that touches my heart.