August 269 AD
At first I was imprisoned with others. What’s a priest to do in prison but to speak the Word of God. But since then Claudius has decided I am not to be heard.
I am transported to another place…
moldy walls, spiders in corners, rats on the floor…
and there is not one single soul I can speak to at all.
For seven days…no human sounds…no food…
water only from dribbles out of the cracks in the wall.
Time passes through the bars…
as the light changes and shadows move.
I know the shift changes of the guards.
They do not speak anything of value…
but I value the sound of a human voice.
I am alone.
I am weak.
Is it here that I will die?
On the eighth day there is sudden cessation of speech…
clanging of metal, and guards rising quickly to their feet.
Then, the sound of more men gathering…silence…and the black iron door creaks open.
His never used sword is nestled in its sheath.
His royal scepter is gripped tightly in his hand.
This is the man…
who would outlaw love…
who would outlaw God…
who would end marriage…
who would end me.
I do not rise to my feet at the entrance of Claudius. So four soldiers rush to my side, hoist me off the ground like a carcass of beef and hurl me at the feet of the Emperor like a sack of stones.
“I can use a man like you.” he begins. “The people admire you. How does it matter which god you serve? You can be free today Valentine, and I’ll even add your crucified god to my mantel if you just add mine.”
He waits for an answer, sure he has convinced me.
Having spoken little more than a whisper in a week, my words barely break the silence. “There is only One God. Our Savior, Jesus, who has set the world free of sin.”
His heart is a barren wasteland of ice…
His emotion is black as a bottomless pool of water.
He shows no signs of interest in the truth, yet he lets me continue.
“God is one.
God is truth.
God is light.
But it is here that he ends things.
The royal scepter is hurled past my ears and his emotion comes alive, “I shall stamp out your love Valentine! You will no longer defy me. Join me or remain here.”
“Then here I stay.”
With that he turns like a child told he cannot play outside. His robe swirls and I am kicked to the ground. The door is slammed shut. I look up to pray
It is only then that I notice the prison bars are no longer stark and bare.
The rose petals speak without a voice.
They tell me that there is love…
even in Rome…
even in this cell.
There is more…
to this story of Saint Valentine.
Please come back.