February has arrived, and with it, thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day.

The Feast of St. Valentine was established around the year 500 but was removed from the Roman calendar in 1969. There is no official observance for Valentine at all in the Episcopal Church calendar. So how has this saint captured the imaginations of so many?

History tells us Valentine was a priest who lived in third century Rome. Emperor Claudius forbade Roman soldiers to marry; legend has it Valentine secretly married soldiers and their sweethearts in defiance of this rule. He was martyred around 270.

While we can’t corroborate all the details of Valentine’s life, this truth remains: loving relationships are at the heart of Christian faith. It’s not just about romantic love, of course, but the agape love that consistently chooses to delight in the other. It’s a central aspect of how God loves us, and how Christ calls us to love one another.

Relationship with God and each another is at the heart of life at Bethesda, as well. The St. Mary’s Guild Valentine’s Bridge Luncheon this Friday, February 10, is a wonderful example. It’s a time to sharpen wits at bridge, yes! But it’s also about building relationships, old and new. Empty Bowls is coming up on February 17. This wonderful event raises funds and awareness for the Palm Beach County Food Bank. It’s a way we share Christ’s love tangibly with our broader community.

Loving relationships are at the heart of who we are as Christ-followers. That’s something worth celebrating on Valentine’s Day, and all year long.

The Rev. Susan Bebee