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Special St Valentine's blessing for Dublin lovers

The Carmelite church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin, is today offering couples the opportunity to be blessed before the remains of St Valentine, which lie in a shrine in its church (pictured).

On St Valentine's Day, the Reliquary containing the saint's remains is moved from beneath the side-altar and placed before the high altar in the church. At the 11.00 am and 3.15 pm Masses there are special sermons and also a short ceremony for the Blessing of Rings.

Prior of the Carmelite monastery, Fr Chris Crowley, told that wedding, engagement and rings of "special sentimental value" are all blessed during the service.

The patron saint of lovers, ended up in Dublin through a strange twist of fate. In 1835 an Irish Carmelite by the name of John Spratt, so enthralled the people of Rome with his fine preaching, that he was offered many gifts, including the remains of St Valentine from Pope Gregory XVI.

On November 10, 1836, the Reliquary containing the remains arrived in Dublin and were brought in solemn procession to Whitefriar Street. With the death of Fr Spratt interest in the relics died away and they were put in storage, to emerge again during a major renovation to the church in the 1950s. At that time an altar and shrine were built to house them and to allow people to venerate the saint.

St Valentine came from Terni, a town an hour from Rome, which at that time was known as Interamna. According to legend and Church history, St Valentine, who was Bishop of Interamna, secretly married young couples against the wishes of the Emperor Aurelius who had decided that married men made poor soldiers and banned young men from marrying. Bishop Valentine however, believed that marriage was part of God's plan and purpose for the world.

Thinking the emperor cruel and unjust he invited young lovers to come to him in secret, and he joined them in the sacrament of matrimony.

A well known legend tells that he used to make the present of a flower from his own garden to young visitors. Two of these young people fell in love; and were so happy that many other couples followed their example, to such a point that the Saint was induced to dedicate one day of the year to a general benediction of the state of matrimony.

When the emperor learned of this "friend of lovers," he ordered the bishop be brought to the palace. Impressed with the young bishop's dignity and conviction, Aurelius tried to convert him to the pagan Roman gods and save him from otherwise certain execution. Valentine refused to renounce Christianity.

In February 273, Valentine was clubbed, stoned and then beheaded on the orders of the Roman prefect Placidus Furius.

Many years later, in 1644, the citizens of Terni proclaimed him both the patron saint of their city and of lovers.

According to Fr Crowley, St Valentine still has a message for the people of today. "He teaches us courage. He was courageous, as were the young people who came to him at great cost to themselves."

Special blessing for Valentine lovers in Dublin tomorrow ( 13/2/05)

Shrine of St Valentine (
Irish Historical Mysteries: St Valentine in Dublin (Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies)
Valentine's Day Dos and Don'ts (National Catholic Register 9/2/03)

Pope in Valentine's Day call for chaste courtship (CathNews 16/2/04)
Engaged couples gather at St Valentine's tomb to seek blessing (CathNews 14/2/03)
Archbishop tells students heaven is more than a night club (CathNews 12/2/02)

When the saint goes marching out (The Age 13/2/05)

14 Feb 2005