Who Was Saint Valentine?

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’re talking about the day’s namesake this week! Who was Valentine? What did he do? You’ll learn why Valentine’s Day is not just about flowers and chocolates and why it can inspire you to outreach this February.


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Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where Every Woman is a Theologian. 

Happy Valentine’s week, my friends. In this episode, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a little church history all about Saint Valentine, who he was, and maybe at the end, a few ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day in a special way.

So for this particular episode, I wanna go way back in time to the 2nd 3rd centuries. Actually, right around AD, 240 to 270. Now full confession, there are technically two or more Valentines in church history. It was a pretty common name. It’s kind of like saying a guy was named, I don’t know, Kevin today. There can be more than 1 Kevin. That’s kind of what was happening back in the 3rd century with Valentine. And so Saint Valentine now is a celebrated church holiday, but over the course of church history, he actually has had his particular celebration day removed because the facts about his story can’t be completely verified. But we do have a lot of legends about who Valentine was, and they do give us a really cool context for celebration of this holiday. 

So if you’re someone who really hates Valentine’s Day because it’s commercialized, I totally understand. Or if you’re single and irritated because it’s Valentine’s Day and there are just couples everywhere and it’s obnoxious, totally understand. But maybe the context of Valentine’s Day will give you a new view, and we can think outside the box in terms of how to love others on Valentine’s Day. 

So the cupid and flowers element of Valentine’s Day hasn’t been around as long as we may think. It didn’t start in the 1st few centuries of the church. It actually started with Chaucer’s poetry in the 1400’s. And then during the Victorian era, a Valentine was a person or lover that she would send cards and gifts to. So, eventually, the word Valentine came to represent the card itself. So now we send valentines to our valentines, if that makes sense. 

But according to medieval church legend, Valentine goes further back. Saint Valentine, whose name comes from the Latin, Vallejo, to be strong, was supposedly a priest who lived in the 3rd century, again, around 240 to 270 AD. The Roman Empire was still in power, specifically the emperor Claudius. And Claudius believed that soldiers fought better without distraction and that marriage, particularly for young men, was the kind of distraction that they should avoid. And so Claudius outlawed marriage for the young citizens of the Roman Empire. At the time, it was also very common for men to be married to several women who practice polygamy.

And so for young Christians who are living in the Roman Empire, Biblical marriage was really not an option in the emperor’s eyes. You’re not allowed to marry if you’re a soldier, and 1 man and 1 woman isn’t normative. Now it certainly existed among Roman citizens, but the fact that Christians were trying to practice monogamy would have been a little bit different. 

So Valentine, this is how the legend goes, was performing marriages for these young soldiers or these young Christian couples to be free to marry according to God’s design. He was performing secret ceremonies for the Christian couples against the emperor’s edict endangering his own life. And so, eventually, Claudius found out the priest was arrested and condemned to a threefold martyrdom on February 14th, beating, stoning, and beheading. So this is a very graphic and sad story and maybe not what you expected. It doesn’t sound like Valentine’s Day with the roses in the hearts, but one thing it does show us is a level of love. Not just romantic love, but a love for others and a willingness to lay down one’s life in order to preserve their affection for one another. 

So we don’t know how true this legend is. There are a lot of facts that may be true. There are, again, more than one Valentine’s in church history. And the legend really does point to, just like with Saint Nicholas and Saint Patrick, some pretty significant facts and points in church history that may actually be true. But even if it isn’t, we do have something we can take away on Valentine’s Day. We can know that the love that inspired Valentine or at least the legend of Valentine can inspire us to love others in ways that don’t necessarily benefit us. 

When we think about Valentine’s Day only in terms of couples and being in a relationship, a romantic relationship, we can miss out on how Valentine’s Day can be an opportunity to love all of the people in our lives, whether that’s grandparents or uncles and aunts or the lonely widow who’s on your street, or the neighbor that you’ve never walked over and said hello to. And so I wanted to offer a few ideas for taking care of other people. 

But first, I want to read a little verse from Matthew 26. It says, teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? And Jesus replied, love the lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the 1st and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these 2 commandments. So Jesus is elevating this 2nd commandment and saying that it’s tied to the first that to love God fully means we also love others. 

Now if you’ve been following me and Every Woman a Theologian for any period of time. You know that loving others does not mean we don’t stand on truth. It doesn’t mean that we never speak up for the doctrines of Christianity or that we create a universalist model of Christianity that isn’t true to who Jesus was. That’s not what I’m saying. But what Jesus is saying here is that it’s important as a reflection of our love for God that we love other people just as he loved us and just as Valentine loved the people that he served. 

So I have an entire Valentine’s Day celebration guide. It’s completely free on my website that I want to offer to you guys to help celebrate this holiday. It includes Spotify playlists, craft ideas, a Valentine’s Day liturgy, A whole bunch of passages for scripture readings, and it includes this entire history of the holiday for you to be able to read to your family to teach them about who Valentine was. I also included some recipes and some book recommendations both for children on Saint Valentine and for adults. And because I’m a total Hallmark nerd, I even gave you my top 7 Hallmark movies and some ideas for hosting a Galentine’s brunch. Your kids will also get a free printable coloring page of Saint Valentine. So there’s a lot in it. I’m so excited to offer it to you. If you would like to grab that freebie, you can go to phyliciamasonheimer.com/resources and scroll down, and you will see the Valentine’s freebie. It’s a little square right in the middle of the page. It’s red and pink and all sorts of fun stuff. Click that, and you can sign up to get the free PDF with all of the links. Again, that’s phyliciamasonheimer.com/resources to get the Valentine’s Day freebie so you can celebrate with your girlfriends or with your kids, your family, 

I’m a huge fan of making a big deal of little holidays because I think it helps, especially in winter, to make just to make the time go faster and as a way to inspire outreach to our neighbors and to our loved ones, I like to make some yummy cookies, take them to our neighbors, and then throw a little Valentine’s Day breakfast or party at our own house, and then end the week with a Galentine’s brunch. That’s what I like to do. So if you need some ideas, they’re all in this little resource. I’m so excited to offer it to you, and I hope I will have you back next week for our next episode in the theology series.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram at phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also visit phyliciamasonheimer.com for links to each episode and the show notes.


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