In the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II was faced with defending the Roman Empire from the invading Goths. He believed men who were not married made better soldiers so he forced the military to ban traditional marriage. He also forced the Senate to deify the former Emperor Gallienus, including him with the Roman gods to be worshiped.
There were ten major persecutions of Christians in the first three centuries in which many historical records were destroyed, but the legend passed down in Legenda Sanctorum by Jacobus de Voragine, 1260, was that Saint Valentine was a priest or bishop in Italy.
When the Emperor demanded the Church violate its conscience and worship pagan idols, Bishop Valentine refused to comply. Valentine risked the Emperor’s wrath by standing up for traditional marriage and secretly marrying young men and women.
Saint Valentine was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off on FEBRUARY 14, 269AD. While awaiting execution, the story is he prayed for the jailers’ sick daughter, who miraculously recovered. He wrote her a note and signed it, “from your Valentine.” In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius designated FEBRUARY 14th as “Saint Valentine’s Day.”
The Greek name for Christ, Χριστό, begins with the letter “Chi” written as an “X,” and became an abbreviation for the name of Christ. This is why X-mas became the abbreviation for Christmas. In Medieval times, the “X” was called the Christ’s Cross, or as it was later pronounced, “Criss-Cross. “The Christ’s Cross was a form of a written oath. Similar to the ancient practice of swearing upon a Bible, saying “so help me God,” then kissing the Bible, people would sign a document next to the Christ’s Cross to swear before God they would keep the agreement, then kiss it to show sincerity. This practice has come down to us as “sign at the X”, or saying “I swear, cross my heart.” This is the origin of signing a Valentines’ card with an “X” to express a pledge before God to be faithful, and an “O” to seal the pledge with a kiss of sincerity. (Source: AmericanMinute.com)
There are others who claim this is mostly the stuff of legends, that there were many Valentine’s in church history. Look no further than Wikipedia for some of these Valentine’s Day accounts. The day shows up in church calendars… or used to.
February 14 is celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations; it has, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion.In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”
There’s enough to suggest that sloppy greeting cards and chocolate were not high on the list back then, and that somehow sacrificial love factored more greatly into the equation. That said… enjoy the day and feel the love.