Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Denver Seminary Blog one year ago, on Valentine’s Day.
Today is St. Valentine’s Day. This morning I was reading from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, which has daily scripture readings and prayers, as well as short vignettes of Christian witness in the past.
Today’s entry about Valentine of Rome (d. 269): “A Christian priest in Rome, Valentine was known for assisting Christians persecuted under Claudius II. After being caught marrying Christian couples and helping Christians escape the persecution, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned. Although Emperor Claudius originally liked Valentine, he was condemned to death when he tried to convert the emperor. Valentine was beaten with stones, clubbed, and, finally, beheaded on February 14, 269. In the year 496, February 14 was named a day of celebration in Valentine’s honor. He has since become the patron saint of engaged couples, beekeepers, happy marriages, lovers, travelers. Young people, and greetings.” (p. 145)
Of course, this paragraph changes how one might look at St. Valentine’s Day, as it takes the concept of love behind this day to its roots of service to the marginalized and persecuted. We can trivialize this example of self-sacrifice with our cards and the like—all in good fun, of course, and well-intentioned. Valentine points us to love in a deep way, which might come at great cost. The objects of our love, to take his life as a model, are not to be limited to the loved ones of our families or the person whom we have romantic ties (although this is a direct application of what did). The millions of undocumented and documented immigrants in our midst also are to be the objects of our commitments and affections. This, too, would be an application of Valentine’s ministry and life. Perhaps we can reformulate and broaden our view of St. Valentine’s Day to include loving in concrete ways the stranger in our midst.
M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) is distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and the national spokesperson on immigration for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He is the author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible (Baker Academic, 2008). A second edition will appear this December. He obtained his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and his PhD from the University of Sheffield. Read his Denver Seminary blog here.
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