February 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day

Dear residents of St. Andrew’s Hall,

On behalf of the staff I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Valentine’s Day!  You will find Andy the Bear, our college mascot, in the main lobby today wishing you well on this day when we celebrate love.  Feel free to stop by and say hi to Andy.

Valentine’s Day is known more broadly in the culture as a day for romantic love or exchanging of chocolates and cards.  But the origin of this day and its patron saint has deep Christian roots.  When reviewing the lives of our Christian ancestors, often called saints, there is a lot of wiggle room between history and hagiography.  (History being how many fish you actually caught, hagiography being more the tales of the big one that got away!).  Somewhere in the mist of time Christians speak of a leader in 3rd century Rome who secretly married couples (against the Emperor’s orders) to spare the husbands from going to war.  Other stories tell of Valentine healing a young woman’s eyesight (who happened to be the daughter of his jailer!) and signing a letter to her as “from your Valentine.”  What is clear is that Valentine’s love of God and love for neighbour led to his arrest and execution under Emperor Claudius near the end of the third century.  No wonder there is a slight confusion in our culture between a day for romantic love and chocolates juxtaposed to someone dying for their faith as these meme reminds us:

When Christians give their lives in the service of the gospel they are known as martyrs.  The word martyr is used throughout the New Testament to mean “witness.” Church of England priest, poet and former Cambridge University chaplain Malcolm Guite wrote a beautiful poem of this misunderstood saint and the day named after him as follows:

Why should this martyr be the saint of love?

A quiet man of unexpected courage,

A celibate who celebrated marriage,

An ageing priest with nothing left to prove,

He loved the young and made their plight his cause.

He called for fruitfulness, not waste in wars,

He found a sure foundation, stood his ground,

And gave his life to guard the love he’d found.


Why should this martyr be our Valentine?

Perhaps because he kept his covenant,

Perhaps because, with prayer still resonant,

He pledged the Bridegroom’s love in holy wine,

Perhaps because the echo of his name

Can kindle love again to living flame.

May this day be one of good cheer and much love for you and those you care about both near and far.  As you reflect on this day, however, I invite you to prayerfully recall one in our Christian tradition whose life and sacrifice leaves a legacy worth remembering.

Grace and peace,