Tuesday, February 14, 2017

St. Valentine in Dublin

Happy St. Valentine's Day! 

The Shrine of St. Valentine,
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Whitefriar Street Church,
Aungier Street, Dublin.
Ah yes, it is time to once again celebrate the love in your life on the feast day of the martyr Valentine. Saint Valentine is widely known as the patron saint of love and lovers, engaged and happily married couples, and he is also, oddly enough, the patron saint of beekeepers. It is said that Valentine is the patron saint of love because he was executed for continuing to bless marriages at a time when Christianity was outlawed.

Dublin, Ireland, has a special association with the patron saint of love because the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel — popularly known as Whitefriar Street Church — has a shrine in honour of St. Valentine which holds a reliquary bearing some of his remains.

So, how did Saint Valentine end up in Ireland?

In 1835, Father John Spratt, an Irish Carmelite priest, visited Rome. Father Spratt was not only responsible for the building of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Whitefriar Street in Dublin — on the site of a 13th century Carmelite Monastery — but over time he had become internationally renowned for his preaching skills and for his work with the poor and indigent in the Liberties area of Dublin.

While in Rome Father Spratt was asked to deliver the homily at The Church of the Gesù, the famous Jesuit church in Rome. He so impressed the elite of the Catholic Church that as a token of their esteem Pope Gregory XVI presented Father Spratt with a reliquary containing some of the remains of St. Valentine.

On 10 November 1836, the St. Valentine’s reliquary arrived in Dublin. Following a solemn procession to Whitefriar Street Church, it was received by the Most Reverend Daniel Murray, Archbishop of Dublin.

After the death of Father Spratt in May of 1871, the reliquary was stored away and it was not until the church underwent a major renovation in the mid-20th century that the reliquary was installed under the altar of the shrine which had been constructed in the church to honour St. Valentine.

The reliquary that holds the saint's remains.
Notice the book on the altar in which you may write requests for blessings from St. Valentine.
Saint Valentine is most often depicted in the colour red, as he is here in the shrine. Red roses are associated with Valentine, as is the crocus flower. On his statue at Whitefriar church, Valentine holds a crocus in his hands. The crocus flower is said to represent cheerfulness and gladness, and also love. There is a long held belief that if the petals of a crocus are laid on the matrimonial bed after the wedding ceremony, the couple will be blessed with a long and happy marriage.

Today, this Shrine of Saint Valentine is visited throughout the year by couples who come to pray that the saint might bless their relationship with long lasting love. The shrine is also the site for the Blessings of Rings ceremony for those about to be married. On any given day when you visit the shrine you will find a book atop the altar cloth into which you might write requests to Saint Valentine to bless you with much love in your life.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Feast of Brigid & the first day of spring on the Celtic calendar

Although not much is known about the saint for whom it is named, St. Brigid’s cross is a national symbol in Ireland. St. Brigid is said to have been born into the family of a Leinster chieftain, sometime around 450, in the County Louth village of Faughart, near Dundalk.

It is said Brigid refused to enter into an arranged marriage and instead chose to consecrate her life to God. Brigid is credited with the founding of several monastic communities around Ireland, including a large monastery at Kildare. The significance of this community may account for the fact that St. Brigid is known as Brigid of Kildare. Brigid’s communities provided education for young Irish women at a time when the Roman church would not do so.

There is a long list of persons for whom Brigid is said to be patron saint, including babies & brewers, mariners & midwives, poets & scholars.

All around Ireland on the first day of February — the first day of spring on the Celtic calendar — you may find children crafting St. Brigid’s cross out of rushes. Also, you might spy the crosses in transom windows over doorways, beseeching St. Brigid to keep safe those who reside within. My own St. Brigid's crosses are pictured above. The black one is crafted out of petrified turf, and is a souvenir of time spent in County Kildare. The reed one is a little the worse for wear, but hangs in our home, not only as a talisman against harm, but also as a symbol of the kindness of the young woman who crafted it for me at the 2014 January Tradfest site on the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Around Ireland there are a number of sites dedicated to Brigid, but my favourite among these is near the National Stud in County Kildare. Please enjoy the brief video slideshow below of my visit to St. Brigid's Holy Well.


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