St. Valentine, Priest and Martyr
The holy Priest Valentine lived at the time of the Emperor Claudius. He was held in high estimation, both by the Christians and heathens, on account of his natural amiability, wisdom and virtue. Claudius himself desired to see him, and on his being brought into his presence, said to him: “Why do you refuse to be my friend, when I wish to become yours? Nothing in you displeases me, but that you confess a faith which is against our gods.” Valentine replied: “O Emperor! if you knew the God I worship, you would consider yourself blessed to serve Him. He it is who has given you your life and your crown, and who alone can make you eternally happy.” One of those present interrupted him, saying: “What think you, then, of Jupiter,–of Mercury?” “I think that they have been wicked men, as their lives show,” answered the Priest;” and, therefore, they are unworthy to be called gods.” “That is sacrilege!” cried many: “Valentine deserves to die!” Valentine begged the Emperor graciously to lend him his ear, only for a short space of time, that he might defend his words.
Having received permission to speak, he placed the falsity, of the heathen gods and the truth of the God of the Christians so clearly before their eyes, that the Emperor, prepossessed in his favor, said to those surrounding him: “I must confess this man speaketh with much reason, and nothing can be said to confute his teaching.” Calphurnius, the Governor, who was also present, on hearing the Emperor speak thus, was filled with fear that he would embrace the Christian faith, and cried: “Valentine is a sorcerer, a blasphemer of the gods of the Empire! He must die, or an insurrection will break out among the people!” This speech alarmed the Emperor to such a degree that he gave up the holy Priest entirely into the hands of the Governor.
Calphurnius immediately cast him into a dungeon, and gave orders to Judge Asterius to accuse him as an enemy of the gods, according to law. Asterius wished first to make an attempt to win over the Priest, who was so universally loved, from the Christian faith, but to the good fortune of the judge, the contrary took place. Valentine restored the sight of the daughter of Asterius, who had been blind for many years, and, in consequence, the judge and his whole family forsook their idolatry and were baptized. When this was reported to the Emperor, he admired the power of the God whom Valentine adored, and endeavored to set the Saint free, but again frightened by Calphurnius with an insurrection, he at length gave orders to behead him. Saint Valentine received his death sentence with great joy, and ended his life by a glorious martyrdom.
The holy Priest Valentine desires to convert the heathen Emperor, and endeavors to convince him of the falsity of his idols and the truth of the Christian God. How is it with you? Have you a true knowledge of the God in whom you believe? Do you strive to obtain it? To prefer, and more frequently to go to the theatre than to listen to a sermon; to prefer, and more frequently to read, a silly, or perhaps a sinful book, than a book of devotion; to prefer, and more frequently to speak of worldly affairs, of voluptuousness, of games, of luxurious garments, of your neighbors’ faults, or even of obscenities, than of God and holy subjects; these are not the means by which men are led to the most necessary knowledge of God. By listening to the Word of God, by reading books of devotion, by pious conversation, and by divine contemplation, we come to the knowledge of God. Do you make use of these means, or do you, perhaps, think that it is not so necessary to attain a knowledge of God? What! You surely are aware that Christ said: “Now this is eternal life,” that is the condition, the foundation, the first means to the eternal life: “that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (St. John,, ch. xvii.).
Where there is no knowledge of God, there is no true faith in Him, no true hope, no true love, no fear of God, no hope of salvation. St. Jerome said rightly: “The man who acknowledges not God, should rather be called an unreasonable animal than a man.” Where the knowledge of God is wanting, there the greatest crimes find an easy entrance and prevail; according to the words of the Prophet, “There is no knowledge of God in the land. Cursing, and lying, and killing, and theft, and adultery have overflowed” (Osee, chapter iv.). What can follow such crimes but eternal ruin? Consequently, strive zealously, through the means above mentioned, to attain a true knowledge of God. The better your comprehension of God, the more immovable will be your faith, the firmer your hope, the more ardent your love for Him, the more fervent your zeal to serve Him, the more carefully will you shun sin and endeavor to perform good actions. And this, believe me, is the only path that leads to salvation.
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.