February 14th is the feast day of Valentine. According to legend, Valentine became the patron Saint of Lovers for marring couples against the wishes of the Roman Emperor Claudius who banned marriage believing that single men made better soldiers.
But do you know of the Irish connection to St. Valentine? The remains of St. Valentine may have been brought to Dublin.
The story goes that in 1835 while visiting Rome, the Carmelite priest Fr. John Spratt, gave a sermon in the city and Pope Gregory XVI being impressed, gifted him with Valentines’ remains. Spratt brought the remains back to Whitefriar Street Church in November of 1836, where they were received by the Archbishop.
When Spratt died the remains went into storage but during a renovation of the church in the 1960’s they were placed in a specially constructed shrine that is still visited by couples today.
Another famous Valentine with an Irish connection is Valentine Greatrakes.
Greatrakes or “Greatorex”, the son of English Protestant settlers, was born in Affane, Co. Waterford on 14th February 1628. When the rebellion of 1641 broke out he was sent to England to live with family. He later joined the English Parliamentary army in Ireland and after a long career he retired to his home in Affane.
Greatrakes was said to be a religious man and during this time he began to feel like he had a certain power. In 1662 he claimed he had the power to cure scrofula, “The King’s Disease”, by laying hands on a person and stroking all their pain into first their extremities and eventually completely out of the body. This earned him the name “The Stroker”.
Traditionally, only the king had the power to cure scrofula and in 1666, Valentine was summoned to an audience with Charles II. Even though Greatrakes had many supporters who believed in his successes, the King remained unconvinced but allowed him to continue his work.
Greatrakes returned to Ireland in 1667 but did not keep up his stroking cure. He died in 1682 at Affane.