St. Valentine lived in Rome during the third century. At that time, the Roman ruler wanted to have a big army. Many men did not want to fight in wars, leaving their wives and families. This made the ruler no longer allowing marriages. Many, including St. Valentine thought this new law was cruel.
One of St. Valentine's favorite activities was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, he kept on performing marriage ceremonies -- secretly, of course. Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and St. Valentine, whispering the words of ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers. One night, St Valentine was caught and thrown in jail and told that my punishment was death. Many young people came to the jail to visit him, throwing flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love.
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in the cell. Sometimes they would sit and talk for hours. On the day St. Valentine was to die, he left his friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty, signing it, "Love from your Valentine."
I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. St. Valentine died on February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship.
Let us gather for a day to whisper and talk at length about the secrets and gifts of love. Let us contemplate it's gifts and struggles. Let us wonder and acknowledge it's many different manifestations and it's overarching presence in our lives.
We will spend the day in the deeper contemplation of love and relationship. We will ask ourselves questions as we walk the land. And we will come together in community to witness each others' experience of this important and big human emotion.