According to Catholic Church tradition Saint Valentine was a priest near Rome who was martyred around the year 269 or 270 A.D. At that time, the Roman Emperor Claudius II (a.k.a. Claudius the Goth) had issued an edict forbidding marriage. This was around the time of the fall of the Roman empire.
Lack of good administrators led to fighting in the empire. Learning declined, taxation increased, and trade slumped to a very low level. The Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks, and Mongolians from northern Europe and Asian increased their pressure on Rome's boundaries. The empire had grown too large to be shielded from enemies both inside and outside the empire. More men were needed as soldiers and officers. When Claudius became emperor, he felt that married men were very attached to their families, and would not make good soldiers so he banned marriage.
Father Valentine, seeing the trauma of young lovers, met them in a secret place (the catacombs under Rome), and joined them in the holy sacrament of Matrimony. Emperor Claudius learned of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested. The emperor, impressed with the young priest's dignity and conviction, attempted to convert Father Valentine to the Roman gods. Father refused to worship the Roman gods and even attempted to convert the emperor, knowing what would happen to him.
While Father Valentine was in prison, he became friendly with his jailor. The jailor had a blind daughter and asked to have his daughter healed. Through his faith, Father miraculously restored the sight of the jailor’s daughter. Just before his execution, he asked for a pen and paper from his jailor. The farewell message to the daughter was signed, "From Your Valentine." On February 24, Father Valentine was executed and buried on the Flaminian Way. Pope Julius I had a church built in 350 AD near Ponte Mole in Saint Valentine’s memory.
Saint Valentine has became the patron saint of love, lovers, engaged couples, happy marriages, bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, plague, travelers, and young people. He is usually pictured as a bishop with birds, roses or both.
The Saint Valentine's Day card spread with Christianity. One of the earliest cards was sent by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415 while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now preserved in a manuscript collection in the British Museum.
A PRAYER TO ST. VALENTINE
Dear Saint Valentine, glorious martyr, teach us to love unselfishly
and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out
God and the best in each other.