Jana listened eagerly as her father, Asterios, told the stories he’d received from Valentine. He’d related to her father, a judge overseeing Valentine’s house arrest, about a man named Jesus who did all sorts of miracles. The story she liked the most was of the man born blind receiving his sight. She hoped such a miracle could be preformed on her. She’d not seen anything since she was born either.
“And then,” Asterios said, “Jesus walked right out onto the water to them. When Peter, one of his disciples called out to him, he also walked on the water.” Asterios paused for dramatic effect. “At least for a little while. Then he sank. But then Peter called out to Jesus and Jesus saved him.”
“Wow!” Jana said. She bounced in her seat. “Tell me the one again about the man born blind who Jesus healed.”
“You would want to hear that one. But I just told it to you before this one . . . for the seventh time.”
Jana slumped in her seat. “Too bad this Jesus isn’t around today.”
Asterios ran his fingers through his beard. “You know, that just might be a good test.”
“A test? A test of what?”
“Well, Valentine said that this Jesus isn’t dead, but alive, and that He resides in each person who has accepted him as their lord. If that’s true, then his disciples should be able to do the same things as Jesus did.” Asterios straightened up and rose from his chair. “Jana, today you are going to jail.”
Her face fell. “What did I do?”
“Why, your blind of course. And we’re going to put this Valentine to the test to see whether what he is telling me is true or not.”
“You mean, you’re going to ask him to heal me?”
“You bet. Why not? We’ve tried everything else. But don’t get your hope up too high. This is a long shot. All this may be is stories.”
She laughed. “Don’t worry, father. I’ll be glad to meet this great story-teller if that is all he is.”
Asterios rubbed the top of her head and hugged her. “And who knows, they could be true stories as well.”
Later that day, her father led her into the house where Valentine was being kept. The modest house was bare. The furniture consisted of a bed, a table with a couple of chairs, and a dresser for the prisoner to store his extra clothing in. Valentine sat in a chair at the table.
Valentine’s eyes brightened and he rose when he saw her. “Ah, a special visitor today, I see.” He noticed the way her eyes didn’t move much. “Is she blind?”
Asterios nodded. “Been so from her birth, just like that guy in the story you told me about.”
“Poor child.” Valentine cupped her cheeks in his palms. “What is your name?”
“Jana.” she responded. “Can you really heal me?”
“Who, me? I’m a nobody. I can’t heal anything.”
Jana’s expectant smile turned into a frown. “You can’t?”
Asterios said, “Valentine, I beseech you on behalf of my adopted daughter that you heal her from her blindness. If you are able to do so, I will believe on this Jesus and do whatever you say to me to do. If not, I can no longer listen to your stories, because that is all they are.”
Valentine grinned. “I said I couldn’t do it. But God can.” He placed a hand on Jana’s head. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth even as it is in heaven. Give us today a signal of your love for this child of yours. We ask that you heal her eyes of their blindness. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
Both of them watched Jana. For a few brief seconds she said nothing. Then she smiled. “I can see some light, like a lantern in the night, getting brighter and brighter. “ Her smile grew into a big grin. “And now I can see color, father. I can’t even begin to describe them, they are so beautiful!”
Asterios jumped up and down in joy. He quickly grabbed Jana’s face and put his up close to hers. “Jana, can you see me? Can you?” His grin waited expectantly.
“Why, yes, father. I can!” They both hugged and jumped at the same time. Then Asterios glanced at Valentine and bowed before him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“I did nothing but pray. God healed her.”
“And if you hadn’t prayed, she would not be able to see right now.”
Valentine held up a finger. “Nor would she if you hadn’t asked. So you have as much to do with this as I do.”
Jana leaped into Valentine’s arms. He quickly adjusted himself to the surprise.
“I don’t know who all is responsible. All I know is that I love you for asking,” Jana said.
Valentine smiled. “Now this is the kind of response I could get used to.” He put Jana back on her feet. “Remember Jana, this shows you God’s love for you. Even more, that He came to us and walked among us, and died for us. Before we deserved it, He died and rose again that we might have newness of life.”
“Wow! He must really be God.”
Valentine smiled. “Out of the mouths of babes . . .”
“So, what must we do?” Asterios asked.
Valentine faced him. “If you now believe Jesus to be the Son of God as I’ve been telling you . . .”
“I do, I do, I do!” Asterios said.
“ . . . then you must be baptized, you and all your household.”
“Great. When can we schedule a baptism?”
“Soon, very soon. First we have a little more instruction to go through. But I can baptize you by the end of this week, if I can get to my church.
Asterios opened the front door of the house and waved a hand out the door. “As far as I’m concerned, you are released from house arrest.”
“Great! I’ve got some weddings to attend.”
“Weddings? But I thought the emperor Claudius said no weddings were to be preformed due to the shortage of soldiers for his army.”
“Nevertheless, I have some weddings to preform. What God has joined, let no man put asunder.”
“Who said that?”
Jana jumped in. “Jesus.”
Valentine pointed at her. “Correct, my child.”
Church was over as everyone milled around. Jana had grown tired of the fasting during Lent. She wondered why she needed to do that. Then she’d remember her fasting from sight for so long. Only to be healed by Valentine. She often wondered what had happened to the priest. Even in the short time of around a year, she’d grown used to seeing colors and people. It felt like this was the way it had been all her life. Until today.
“Are you Jana?” A young man asked.
The man stared at her for a moment.
“Well, did you have something to tell me, or are you going to stare at me all day?”
The man shook his head as if coming out of a trance. “Ah, neither. But I do have something to give you.” He held out an envelop.
She took it and opened it. She glanced at the man before she unfolded it. “What’s your name?”
She stared at him harder. No, not the John. It was such a common name. She returned her focus to the letter. As she read it, her mouth hung open and she said, “Oh no!”
“What is it?” John asked. But she didn’t respond, she was so engrossed by the letter.
Gradually, her eyes sparkled and she nodded gently. Upon reading the last line, she smiled. She hugged the letter to her chest. “Thank you, John. I’ll treasure this letter forever.”
“What did he write to you? Can you share it?”
She handed it to John. “Yes, there is something in here everyone needs to know.”
This is what it said:
February 13, 269
My dear, dear, Jana.
May the peace of Jesus Christ, our loving savior, be with you and your kindly father as well as all your household.
You have been a blessing to me during the time of my final trials. The emperor had me arrested for marrying couples against his wishes. Despite that, I thought I’d made some headway with him. He seemed to rather enjoy my company and we’d frequently have long talks. But the moment I started talking to him of my Lord, Jesus Christ, he reacted very negatively. So much so, he had me beaten with clubs and rocks. However, by God’s grace, I’m still alive. However, tomorrow I’m scheduled to have my head cut off. That usually does the trick.
During my struggles, my memory of you has held me fast in addition to the expected reward I will inherit in the next life: being with my sweet savior, Jesus Christ. I remember how you were blind from birth, just like the man in Jesus’ story. And how through me, He healed you. And I recall your deep gratitude and love toward me due to that. Those remembrances have kept me strong as the blows hit my body today.
Remember me and I will remember you. How you ask? Because just like my Savior, I will not die tomorrow. Rather, I will be more alive than I’ve ever been. So hold to the faith, and remember, that God loves you enough to die for you, and I love Him and you enough to die for you both.
Note: There is actually very little known about St. Valentine’s life. The common story is that he was under house arrest by judge Asterios in Rome. Due to healing his adopted daughter born blind, Asterios believed in Christ and he, his immediate family, and forty-four members of his household were baptized. It was also believed that due to him marrying couples against the Emperor’s wishes, he was arrested. Claudius II enjoyed Valentine’s company until he attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity. This resulted in the emperor demanding that Valentine denounce Christ and bow to his idols upon pain of being beaten and if he survived that, beheaded. Naturally he refused to denounce Christ or worship his idols, so on February 14, 269, he was beheaded.
The above story is based upon that story, but of course the actual dialog and the wording of the letter, save for the last line, was made up by me. Yes, it has been reported that he actually sent a letter to the daughter of the judge and signed it, “Your Valentine.”