Autumn’s Return

Hearts and flowers, chocolate candy… hardly the stuff of true crime or civil disobedience; But the legend behind Valentine’s day tells the story of a man who dared to stand up for his faith in the face of overwhelming political obstacles and who paid the ultimate price for his stance concerning Christian marriage.

Saint Valentine: Holy Priest of Rome: The date of this Saint Valentine’s birth is not known. Along with Saint Marius and his family, Saint Valentine assisted the martyrs during the persecution they suffered under the rule of Claudius II (also known as Claudius the Goth and Claudius the Cruel). In addition, since Rome was at the time involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns, the emperor found it difficult to recruit the male populace into joining his military leagues. Believing this to be because Roman men were adverse to leaving their loved ones or their familes, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements within the City of Rome. Saint Valentine and Saint Marius, however, continued to perform wedding ceremonies in secret. When is was discovered that Saint Valentine was defying the emperor’s decree, he was apprehended and dispatched by Claudius to the Prefect of Rome who, being unable to force the saint to renounce Christianity, ordered that Valentine be clubbed, stoned and then beheaded. According to tradition, while Valentine waited in prison for his execution, he corresponded with those under his care by sending letters and love notes to his parishioners. It is also believed that while incarcerated, the Bishop fell in love with a young woman who visited him during his confinement. According to some sources, this was the blind daughter (whose name may have been Julia) of of Asterius, the jailer. It is said that God enabled Valentine to miraculously restore the girl’s sight. Popular belief indicates that Valentine’s farewell message to his love contained a closing that has now transcended time: “From Your Valentine.” The saint was executed on February 14 in either 269 A.D. or 270 A.D. In 270 A.D., Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in the saint’s memory at a location once known as Porta Valentini and now called Porta del Popolo. The relic bones of this Saint Valentine, who may also have been a physician, are now housed within the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome.”

Excerpted from

At any rate, for me Valentine’s day is really about the enduring power of love and marriage in the face of terrible obstacles. To that end I offer this story up for the Daily Posts writing challenge found at

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Autumn’s Return

The October sun set over the mountain bursting into a penumbra of red and purple as it careened into the pointed apex of rock and forest.

John brushed a weary hand through his salt and pepper hair letting it stray to his aching shoulder. He sighed and heard in the exhalation of breath the reminiscence of steel grating on pavement. The memory of fire danced before his eyes as the sun sang its final song over the landscape.

A crow screamed in the trees.

He heard in the bird call, “Daddy! Daddy help me!”

He knew the raven’s cry was just a call to worship for the murder. He was a regular congregant of Nature’s mass. It was the only release from the condemnation he clung to with the shadow strength that grief had left him.

The murder gathered in the highest branches of the pinions. As the last rays of day surrendered to the violent grip of night, crow calls filled the air. Louder than a city traffic jam they screamed in Autumn’s voice, “You let her die!”

His whole life was a haze: There was before the accident which he could only behold with the most conscious of efforts and there was after which started with a white room in the hospital. Black-out faded to dim understanding. He wept with the agony from his broken shoulder and the image of his little girl slumping into unconsciousness as smoke and flame consumed her.

What he needed was absolution. What he got was the forever scream of crows that spoke with Autumn’s voice. What he got was an empty apartment returned to after a month’s stay in the psych ward. What he got was the weariness and the Prozac migraine that kept suicide at bay. What he got was the catharsis of sunlight sprayed across mountains burning into the interminable silence that had become his life.

He came daily to relive, through sun fire and crow scream, the events that had brought him here. He hoped that someday his Sisyphean devotion to the act would set him free. Yet, no penance could ever satisfy hungry guilt. Somewhere inside he knew it would never be enough but it was the only payment he had to make.

As always the avian cantata rose suddenly to a deafening crescendo and then without warning fell dead siphoning away with it all his dreams.

The stars were up. He felt the whisper of the moon’s breath upon his neck.  Blame, held at bay for the few moments of Nature’s symphony, came rushing back in with an audible groan. He waved good bye to the tree tops and rose to go.

He heard the crunch of autumn leaves behind him. He turned and gasped. Autumn stood illumined by the street light. Tears streaked her leaden features. She held out her hand.

“It’s time to go home John.”

16 thoughts on “Autumn’s Return

      • Writing prompts are a great way to generate ideas, aren’t they?

        It’s often more difficult to write short than to write long. Who was it that said, “I’m sorry for writing you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one?”

        The constraints of brevity are a wonderful way to hone our writing. Does your artist’s collaborative include more than writers? Are you finding the group helpful?

      • Yes. We are an eclectic bunch. We have painters musicians even a few wood carvers. We meet in a church once a month just to do art. We have breakfast and lunch together and the morning is given to individual art pursuuits while the afternoon is usually given to a group project…sometimes a chorale, sometimes a writing prompt or poetry prompt. Last year we did a multi-media project in wax, wood, paint and natural fibers.

      • That’s terrific. Just saw the C.cada page on your site–will check it out.

        We’re convinced that the arts are essential today for effective evangelization and community-building, as well as for meaningful worship. Wonderful that you’re getting together to do art!

  1. I really like this, Pastor J and you even came in under the 500 word limit. I am right at the limit. I can’t wait until your book is published. Just tell me when and how much and I’ll be there. You will of course sign it, right? Always love reading your stories!

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