Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Church was founded in 1279 and remains to be one of the largest churches in Dublin situated on Whitefriar Street, a few minutes walk from St Stephen’s Green. It is known to some as the “Mother House” as it has one of the biggest communities in the Province. However to most people, it is known as the last resting place of Saint Valentine.
The story of Saint Valentine dates back to the times when anti-Christian Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome. Claudius believed that the reason men were not joining his army was due to marriage, and for that reason he cancelled all marriages. However a Christian priest named Valentine protected the sacrament of marriage and performed weddings in secret. He was arrested and sentenced to death when caught marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. His sentence was carried out on February 14, 269 AD.
It was Pope Gelasius I that named February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day. Throughout the centuries many churches and monasteries were built on the site of Valentine’s grave. It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that the remains of St. Valentines were discovered along with a small vessel of blood.
In 1835, an Irish Carmelite by the name of Father John Spratt was visiting Rome. He was well known for his skill as a preacher and for his work among the poor in Dublin. While in Rome, he was asked to preach and the elite of Rome flocked to hear him. He received many tokens from the hierarchy of the Church and one such was from Pope Gregory XVI, who gave him a shrine containing the remains of Saint Valentine. Father John Spratt laid the Patron Saint of Lovers to rest in Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Church in Dublin.
Today the shrine remains in the Dublin Church in a wooden casket beneath the marble altar. Above the altar stands a life sized statue of the saint. The shrine is visited year round by couples who ask the saint to bless their lives together. The feast day of the saint on February 14th brings many couples to a mass that includes a blessing of rings for those about to be married.
photos: broadsheet.ie inyourpocket.com