St. Valentine lived in Rome during the third century. At that time Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius.
Claudius wanted a big army, he expected men to vol- unteer to join. Men did not want to fight in wars, they did not want to leave their families, not many men signed up. This made Claudius furious. He thought if men were not married they would not mind joining the army. So he decided not to allow any more mar- riages.
St. Valentine was a priest. One of his favorite activi- ties was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudi- us passed the law, he kept performing ceremonies, secretly of course. Imagine a candlelit room with only the bride & groom and Fr. Valentine, whispering the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers. One night, he did hear footsteps, the couple escaped but St. Valentine was thrown in jail and told his punishment was death. Many young peo- ple came to the jail and threw flowers and notes up to his window. They too believed in love & marriage. One of the young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit St. Val- entine. She agreed that he did the right thing by ignor- ing the Emperor. On the day he was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty and signed it, “Love from your Valentine”.
That note is believed to have started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine’s Day. He died February 14, 269 A.D.