The modern Valentine’s Day is often a time for exchanging love notes, candies, flowers, and other such romantic tokens. The history of St. Valentine, however, tells a slightly different story—one filled with a variety of myths, rumor, and much heartbreak. Some stories claim that the man who would be St. Valentine was a priest who sought to marry young couples in order to bring them to Christianity and more in line with the Christian traditions of the time. Other stories claim that a 3rd century (A.D.) Roman emperor attempted to “ban marriage among young people, believing that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers,” only to have his edict challenged by a (soon to be martyred) Christian priest (HuffPo, 2/14/14). The truth, however, is lost in the mire of legend.
Today, we celebrate Valentine’s Day for entirely different (and usually secular) reasons. Unfortunately, though, we continue to greet the holiday under laws that still prohibit many of our neighbors from enjoying the sacrament of marriage. While the landscape in the U.S. is steadily improving for gay couples looking to say “I Do,” there are still many prejudices and obstacles that stand against them, and still many countries around the world where being gay is not simply a barrier to marriage, but is considered an offense punishable by exile and imprisonment.
Even in the U.S., however, the Episcopal Church remains sadly unique in its level of acceptance, celebration, and inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Old St. Paul’s, itself, has already conducted two same-sex marriages since it became legalized in the State of Maryland. According to The Episcopal Church.org,
“In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that ‘homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church’ (1976-A069). Since then, faithful Episcopalians have been working toward a greater understanding and radical inclusion of all of God’s children.
… In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated; in 2009, General Convention resolved that God’s call is open to all; and in 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized, and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited.”
This Valentine’s Day, don’t simply celebrate the love you share with your family and significant other—celebrate how far we’ve come as a Church and as a country when it comes to accepting and respecting the love of others, and keep up the fight for a more just and Godly world wherein none of God’s children need fear or hide their love.