Thursday, February 14, 2013

Poor old Saint Valentine

Saint Valentine heals the blind girl
It's Valentine's Day! The day much of the world sets aside to celebrate love and lovers.

This day is named for an historically uncertain saint, Valentine, who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius II sometime around 270 ano domini.

According to one legend, Saint Valentine was a bishop of the early Christian church in the Umbria region of Italy. In that era, it wasn't easy to be a Christian. Rome hadn't yet made the conversion and Christians were generally viewed with suspicion. They were the whacky religious cult of that day (similar to today's Oprah Winfrey fans).

Valentine ran afoul of local authorities by performing certain no-nos of the time. Specifically, he provided marriage services for Christians, which was expressly forbidden by Roman law.

A local judge, Asterius, had Valentine placed under house arrest and confined to the judge's own estate. But while thus confined, Valentine continued to work on Asterius, expounding the virtues of Christianity. Asterius resisted for the most part, but in the face of Valentine's persistence, proposed a test. Asterius had an adopted daughter who was blind. He told Valentine that if he could restore the girl's sight, ostensibly through his Christian faith, Asterius would do whatever Valentine asked of him.

The girl was brought before them, Valentine did his thing and --lo and behold! --the girl could see once again. Humble Asterius then bade Valentine instruct him as to how he could become more godly. "Destroy all the false idols in your home," replied Valentine. "Then fast for three days and return to me for baptism."

Asterius did as he was directed and, upon being baptized, was reborn. He immediately ordered the release of all Christians held in his dungeons.

If Valentine had left good-enough alone, it might have ended on that happy note. But you know how those bull-headed martyrs can be, eh? He continued to preach and advocate for Christians until he eventually attracted the notice of Emperor Claudius, himself.

Valentine proved to be a bit of a smooth-talker, apparently. When he was brought before the Emperor, he managed to gain Claudius' favor despite Valentine's "crimes." Legend has it that Claudius admired Valentine and was inclined to give him a pass up until Valentine, with that galling zeal that impels all evangelists, tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. In doing so, he pushed the envelope too far. Claudius had Valentine dragged out to the Flaminian Gate where he was beaten with clubs and then beheaded.

That day, the day Valentine laid his head on the axeman's block, is known as Saint Valentine's Day.

And with that, I bid you all a happy Valentine's Day. I suggest celebrating by exchanging gifts and smooches with loved ones. Don't go out and club anybody to death, eh?

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