Christian history describes several men named Valentine (or Valentinus), and a woman named Valentina. Legends tell about the courage of a Valentine who died for his faith on February 14th. The legends encourage Christians to boldly stand up for Jesus in the face of struggles.
The following legend is from The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candied Hearts by The Voice of the Martyrs with Cheryl Odden. To learn more about this and other children’s resources, visit the resource page.
The story begins as Valentinus was dragged before the emperor of his land. Valentinus’ ankles and wrists were put in chains as he stood before Emperor Claudius and members of the court.
Then the emperor looked fiercely at this man who disobeyed his law and said, “What is this I have heard of you, Valentinus? Why will you not live in peace by obeying my laws, worshipping the Roman gods and turning your back on your God?”
Valentinus looked up at the emperor and said for all to hear, “If you knew about the grace of God, you wouldn’t have asked me to deny Him and worship your idols!”
Claudius was stunned and shouted, “How dare you challenge me!” As he sat on his throne, the emperor glared at the defiant priest standing before him and asked him another question, “Is Jesus God’s Son?”
Valentinus smiled, and with his face glowing with joy he said, “Yes, Jesus is God’s Son. And if you believe in Him, your soul will be saved.”
Claudius sat on his throne and thought hard about what Valentinus had just said. Suddenly, Claudius stood up and exclaimed, “This man’s words made sense! What is wrong with asking Jesus to save our souls?”
The chief prison guard named Marcus stood up and said, “Emperor, you are being misled by the words of this criminal. Why should we turn our backs on worshipping the Roman gods when this is what we’ve been taught since we were children?”
Fearing he might also be arrested, Claudius changed his mind and cried, “Take this criminal away! He is to be put to death for breaking my laws!” Marcus grabbed Valentinus by the arm and led him to his prison cell.
Marcus took the rusty iron key from his belt and turned the lock on the cell door, throwing Valentinus onto the cold, hard dirt floor.
But Valentinus knew he was not defeated. He had just told the emperor, Claudius the Cruel, about Jesus Christ. Even the court officials heard. “He rejected Jesus’ free gift of salvation,” Valentinus sadly thought, “but maybe someday he will accept it….”
There are countries in the world today that say it is wrong for Christians to gather together and worship. If they are caught having a Bible study, prayer meeting or baptism outside the buildings where the government allows them to meet, they are often arrested. Like Valentinus, these Christians use this opportunity to share the gospel with the police who have arrested them.
(Source: The Story of St. Valentine: More Than Cards and Candied Hearts)
To Do and Learn
• As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, remember Christians around the world who share the gospel with their enemies.
• Note: In some strict Muslim countries today, citizens are forbidden to observe Valentine’s Day because it is seen as a Christian celebration.