A Valentine’s Story - the Beheaded Father Valentine


You have to understand that in the Roman Empire of 269 A.D., marriage was illegal. The emperors and senators didn't want anything limiting their orgiastic delights. In fact, the festival of Lupercalia was a pagan festival throughout the land, where adolescents ran nude through the streets, and maidens spanked the bottoms of the boys they liked...well, perhaps we needn't imbue this Facebook posting with too much unnecessary detail.

The main points are that Christianity was still an illegal sect, and performing a marriage ceremony in the name of Jesus Christ could get a person killed.

But Father Valentine was asked to officiate at a marriage, and he agreed. Unfortunately, the Romans intervened, and he was imprisoned, and sentenced to death.

During his time in jail, he was befriended by the jailer's daughter, who grew fond of him. As he was taken away to be executed, he left her a letter. The contents are lost to history, but we know that he signed it "With Love, Your Valentine."

Father Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 269. But the following year, the Catholic Church made the date St. Valentine's Day.

I have officiated at three weddings, and my head is still attached to my neck. So I am in a better position, at the moment, to say a few words regarding love and union than is Father Valentine.

I believe that there are forces that hold the universe together, and one of them is love. And, inasmuch as this day represents the kind of romantic, sensual love that keeps marriage popular, I will say wholeheartedly that romance and lust, when they are both a part of a meaningful union, can make the union and both participants stronger.

But even marital love comes down to an awful lot of the love that simply makes us care about someone. And this kind of love need be neither romantic nor sexual. The kind of love that makes you call up a sick friend, or which makes you give a hug to a bereaved neighbor, or which inspires in you the courage to protect someone weaker who needs you to defend them...I think that's the love that drives civilization. Let us call this "Universal Love."

I don't generally spend much time worrying about what I call Hallmark Holidays, and I think there's a lot of foolishness attached to Valentine's Day whose sole purpose is to sell you overpriced greeting cards, dead flowers, and chocolate.

But "Universal Love" deserves to be celebrated. As a society, we are better and stronger and more compassionate when we benefit from this kind of love, with or without romantic entanglements.

As for marriage, it should be pointed out that half of all marriages end in divorce. So, maybe the Romans were on to something.

But I would point out that love and romance need no official certification to be felt, and there are a great many unions which stand the test of time without licenses and certificates and prenups.

As regards those of you who feel you are alone this Valentine's Day, I would suggest that you really aren't.

All of us have friends and coworkers and neighbors who love us, and who show us their love in many ordinary ways. Perhaps you were so focused on that person who didn't ask you out to notice.

But I assure you that you are loved. We all are.

Even here on Facebook, there are times that you can feel the love from those who care about you. I suppose my attempt at composing a few meaningful words to mark the day is motivated by a kind of love, too.

So on this Valentine's Day, let us celebrate the love that is a unifying force in the universe. Let us be grateful that we are all loved and all lovable. And for those of you fortunate enough to have a partner, I encourage you to remind them that they are loved.

Perhaps cartoonist Charles M. Schulz said it best:

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate, now and then, doesn't hurt."

Have a Happy Valentine's Day, my friends. (But don't lose your head over it.)

- Guest Submission Don Sitt, Don Sitt is an actor on television, movies and Broadway and a playwright 

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