It is the 14th of February 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1628.
Here on the Christian History Almanac, we have a category for the people we call our "Dr. Gene Scott All-Stars." (If you don't know the category, just keep listening, and you'll get it, or Google Dr. Gene Scott.) These are the bizarre, sometimes questionable, fame-seeking ministers, known for self-promotion. This does not apply to the very worst of the televangelists and frauds. Some bad behavior does not receive any attention on our show. But other times, especially further in the past, we might look to the broader context and the whole person's life.
And so today, we have a new entry into the DGS All-Star Squad: he was born on Valentine's Day in 1628. He was, in fact, named Valentine. Today we remember Valentine "The Stroker" Greatrakes, a soldier, faith healer, and farmer whose fame led to an audience with the King of England.
Valentine Greatrakes was born in County Waterford in Ireland to Protestant settlers. He was to attend Dublin University but, in 1641, with the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion, moved to England with his mother. There he was tutored by his Great Uncle as well as John Daniel Getsius. Getsius was his theological tutor, a Protestant from the Palatinate. He fled to England in 1618 with the outbreak of the 30 Years War.
Greatrakes made his way back to Ireland after a few years, and there he joined Cromwell's army against the Irish Loyalists. Being a part of Cromwell's "successful" campaign, he was made Justice of the Peace until 1660 and the restoration of Catholic Charles II. Around this time, Valentine was married and began to feel that he had the gift of healing. He eventually told his wife and started to cure locals of various virulent diseases. His fame led to crowds coming to his house and farm for healing. Word got to the authorities, and Valentine was summoned to the court, where he was reprimanded for healing without a license. Citing the example of Jesus, Greatrakes believed that doing good and healing bested any mad made regulation. I'm not sure of the veracity of this story, but when would-be prophets can point from their example back to THE Prophet. Well, you can bet that story will be repeated and possibly embellished a little.
An old commander from Cromwell's army called on Valentine to come to England to heal his wife. Valentine would come to England, where he was the talk of the town for the year 1666. It is here that he got his name "the stroker." This because he stroked his patient's maladies, sometimes adding his own spit. Weird.
He was eventually brought to the attention of King Charles II (the same guy who led to him losing his job in Ireland). King Charles II summoned him and bade him cure those who were sick in his court. Also, Chuck 2 had a bit of an issue he wanted Valentine to look at. Greatrakes was unable to cure the king, but the king believed him to be working in good faith and permitted him to continue his healing ministry.
Greatrakes called on, among others, Robert Boyle at the Royal Society. He wanted eminent scientists to come to observe him in action. The correspondence is striking in its lack of skepticism from the well-trained minds at the Society.
While one pamphlet was written in 1665 against Greatrakes, what is peculiar, perhaps, is the lack of criticism of Greatrakes. By all accounts, he was a humble man, and most importantly, he never charged money for his healing. By 1666 he felt that the ability to heal had left him, and so he returned to Ireland, where he farmed and lived out the rest of his days in obscurity.
Consider this the first Valentine to start your 14th of February, Valentine Greatrakes, a Dr. Gene Scott All-Star who was born on the 14th of February in 1628.
The reading for today comes from a close contemporary of Greatrakes, the English Poet Joseph Addison, this is his "Ode."
THE spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heav'ns, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th'unwearied sun from day to day
Does his Creator's pow'r display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.
Soon as the ev'ning shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the list'ning earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence, all
Move round this dark terrestrial ball?
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found?
In Reason's ear, they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine:
"The hand that made us is divine!"
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14th of February 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Everyone's Valentine, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.