Saint Valentine was either a priest or a bishop, in the Roman Empire. He ministered to persecuted Christians. He was martyred and his body was buried at a Christian cemetery on February 14. This has been observed as Saint Valentine’s Day since the 700s.
At least two different Saint Valentines are mentioned in the early stories of the martyrs. The most common story describes Saint Valentine as a priest or bishop from Rome. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentine was discussing Jesus. The judge put Valentine to the test. Asterius’ the judge’s adopted blind daughter, was brought to Valentine. If Valentine was able to restore the girl’s sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentine prayed to God. He laid his hands on her eyes. Her vision was restored. The judge was immediately humbled. He asked Valentine what he should do. Valentine answered all of the idols around the judge’s house should be broken. The judge should fast for three days and should be baptized.
The judge listened and followed. Because of his fasting prayer, he freed all the Christians, under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four-member household of adult family members and servants were baptized. Valentine was later arrested again for continuing to evangelize. He was sent to Rome, to the emperor Claudius II. Claudius liked Valentine until he tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity. Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death. Claudius demanded Valentine either renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded. Valentinus refused. Claudius’ command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269.
An additional story says before his execution Saint Valentine wrote a note to Asterius’s daughter signed “from your Valentine”, which is where the romance is said to have come from.
Another popular story says he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Being married allowed the husbands involved to escape conscription into the pagan army. Soldiers were sparse at this time so this was a big problem for the emperor. Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to these persecuted Christian a reminder of their vows and God’s love. This may be why hears are used on St. Valentine’s Day. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner. However, when Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for the martyrdom or martyrdoms: 269, 270, or 273.
He is also a patron saint of Terni, epilepsy, and beekeepers.