(There are many versions of the legend of St. Valentine.
The following is one of our favorites.)
Valentine was a physician and a priest in 3rd century Rome in the realm of Claudius II (Claudius the Cruel). Claudius felt threatened by Christians and threw them into jail on any pretext he could find. Claudius was constantly at war, conducting one bloody campaign after another. Because he thought it would be easier to conscript young men into his armies and to send them off to war if they were single, he issued an edict banning marriage.
Valentine was against the ban. As a priest he was known for his compassion and kindness. As a physician he was noted for healing numerous maladies with his herbal concoctions made from herbs he collected and propagated. So, after the marriage ban was posted, young lovers would come to him secretly for healing, not their maladies, but their broken hearts. Against the ban, Valentine would perform the marriage vows. Eventually one night, there came a knock at the door that was not from lovers, but from Roman soldiers.
Valentine was thrown into jail with other Christians. In jail, the jailer’s little daughter, whose eyesight Valentine had once helped to restore, befriended him. She sneaked him gifts of sweets and flowers brought by the grateful young people whom he had joined in marriage. After many months in jail Valentine was sentenced to death by beheading for his defiance of the emperor’s marriage ban. On the day of his execution, February 14, 270, he sent a note to the little girl thanking her for her steadfast friendship and love. The note was signed, “Your Valentine”.
In time, he was elevated with other Christian martyrs to sainthood by the Catholic Church. Since then he has been known as the patron saint of lovers and his name has come to symbolize a caring, loving heart.