It appears that over time, the story of more than one Valentine has been merged together into one identity. What we can gather from sources (many of which appear unreliable) was that St Valentine was a priest of the former Bishop of Terni in the fourth century. He was martyred and buried in the Via Flaminia, north of Rome. He lived at the time of Emperor Claudias, who was persecuting the Church.
Some stories recount that the Emperor had forbidden the marriage of young people and polygamy was widespread. The Christian faith honoured marriage between a man and a woman and St Valentine would marry men and women in secret. Valentine was arrested, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies.
Other sources claim Valentine’s arrested for discussing with Judge Asterius the legitimacy of Jesus. The Judge put Valentine to the test by asking him to cure his blind daughter. Asterius promised that if he could restore his daughters sight, he would do whatever he asked. Valentine laid his hands on the daughter’s eyes and her vision was restored. The Judge was humbled and kept his promise to Valentine. Valentine’s request was that the Judge would break all the idols in his house, then begin to fast for three days after which he was baptised. The Judge agreed and also freed all the Christian prisoners under his authority. Valentine was later arrested for trying to embrace Christianity upon Emperor Claudius, Valentine was asked to renounce his faith, and he refused and was sentenced to death.
St Valentine is also closely associated with epilepsy. This may be because of the phonetic similarity in the German language between the words ‘fallen’ (fall) and ‘Valentine’. This reinforced St Valentine’s connection to epilepsy in German speaking areas and led to common names for epilepsy in German such as “Saint Valentine’s illness” and “St Valentine’s affliction”. Many over the centuries have called for the intercession of St Valentine and many cures of epilepsy have been attributed to him. Today, much about epilepsy still cannot be explained and many still suffer with it.
This Valentine’s day let us pray for the strengthening of our faith. Let us pray for our married couples that they are witnesses to Christian values and that they may build strong domestic churches. We pray especially for those couples who are struggling, that they may find a way to renew their love in the light of Christ.
Let us remember those affected by epilepsy, including mothers, fathers, families, and especially children. We pray for the intercession of St Valentine to give families who struggle with epilepsy, strength.
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