Valentine lived during the third century. He was a holy priest, possibly a bishop in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. Valentine didn't like Emperor Claudius, and he wasn't the only one! A lot of people shared his feelings.
Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to volunteer to join. Many men just did not want to fight in the wars. They did not want to leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up. This made Claudius furious. So what happened? He had a crazy idea. He thought that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law was cruel. Valentine thought it was preposterous! He certainly wasn't going to support that law.
After Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine secretly kept on performing marriage ceremonies. Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and himself. They would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers.
One night, they did hear footsteps. The couple Valentine was marrying, escaped in time before the soldiers captured them. Unfortunately, Valentine was caught and thrown in jail and his punishment would be death.
While in jail, Valentine tried to stay cheerful. Many young people came to the jail and visit him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love regardless of what the Emperor's law was trying to stop them from doing.
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit Valentine in his cell. Sometimes they would sit and talk for hours. She helped him to keep his spirits up. She agreed that he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. The jailer's daughter had become his friend. On the day of Valentine's execution he left his friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it: "Love From Your Valentine".
Valentine was beaten with clubs and stoned. When that didn't finish him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate in Rome, February 14th 269 A.D. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes in Rome.