Just who was the real St. Valentine, anyway? On February 14th, we will celebrate the birthday of two of the United States, Oregon (1859) and Arizona (1912). I’m not sure why they picked Valentine’s Day, of all days, to become states and be adopted into the steadily growing United States of America, but it is interesting speculation if perhaps it had to do with who Valentine was? Perhaps, but I doubt it.
Valentine was a traveling priest perhaps as early as the third century A.D. It is thought he was martyred in 270. Why? Legends abound, but it is thought that he aided in secretly marrying young soldiers against the orders of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who deemed that young soldiers (all men at that time) should not be attached to females, which was a distraction from their job, and outlawed marriage for them.
I wonder, what lesson could we learn from this courageous saint who stood up for what he believed and acted on it no matter what danger it led him into?
I have been doing some itinerant preaching myself, and I have been noticing a trend among the smaller churches who have been so kind as to invite me into their pulpits. The congregants of these small churches are the ones who have remained true to their community of faith. They are the ones who are standing strong, standing up for what they believe, and continuing to return week after week to attend, even as their numbers shrink.
They, and Saint Valentine, should offer us the example of persistence, of commitment, of dedication to their belief and their community of faith.
At the same time, I am worried that such dedication will be met with loss in the end. Where are the young people? Who is reaching out to them in ways that draw them in? How are they going to learn a deep commitment or dedication if they do not have these examples that stand before them?
Therein lies the challenge: Standing strong, holding on; teaching young the age-old song.
“Go, and do likewise”