Romantics head for St Valentine’s shrine for a blessing – and a kiss

Relics of the third-century martyr and symbol of courtly love draws in the crowds

 

The groom-to-be, Killian Casey (41), wore a relaxed ensemble of dark jeans and tan shoes, a dark sports jacked (unbuttoned), a V-neck grey pullover and a heavily patterned shirt.

By contrast, the bride-to-be, Emer Duffy (36), was radiant and beaming, wearing bright red lipstick, and dressed in a a deep pink three-quarter length jacket, a loose fitting jet black top, blue jeans and a pair of leopard-print ballet pumps of the sort favoured by Theresa May.

Behind them as they posed for the photographers, a statue of St Valentine looked down, resplendent in his crimson robes. His body, plus “a small vessel tinged with his blood”, rests for all eternity in a casket encased in glass in the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Dublin’s Whitefriar Street.

The presence of relics of the third-century martyr and symbol of courtly love has in recent years prompted a foot-fall surge of latter-day romantics and journalists (the two categories are not mutually exclusive) at this time of year.

For Killian and Emer, engaged to be married in June, the omens are auspicious. Killian works as a “partners solutions engineer” at Dell, as Bishop Denis Nulty was quick to point out when blessing their imminent union standing in front of the saint’s shrine on Tuesday.

Taking time to chat to Mass-goers, visiting transition-year students and the gaggle of media, the bishop struck a warm, jovial and light-hearted note on an occasion that nonetheless for the church, carries with it a serious message about the importance of marriage.

The bishop of Kildare and Leighlin pointed out that the institution was a bedrock of individual and societal happiness and it deserved support from everyone. He presented Killian and Emer with a Cross of St Brigid, the pre-Christian and Christian totem to protect the home from harm, and blessed them formally.

Accord, the Catholic Marriage Care Service of which Bishop Nulty is president, published figures on Tuesday showing that over 16,000 people attended marriage preparation courses throughout Ireland last year.

More than 24,000 attended relationship and counselling sessions run by the organisation in 2018, a fall from 38,881 in 2014 – which might suggest that relationship difficulties are declining, or that fewer people are seeking counselling as a solution to their problems.

Killian and Emer are people of faith and regular Mass-goers – in Whitefriar Street and Rathfarnham (where they will live in the former home of Bulmer Hobson) – and they attended Accord’s pre-marriage course.

Emer works for Microsoft and the couple met through work in 2012 but did not become emotionally attached until a subsequent meeting after a GAA match in Croke Park. They share interests in sport, history, travel and family.

Killian proposed in 2018 (she said yes) and the couple selected a ring (a three-stone diamond set in platinum) in Dubai.

They suffered the media in good spirit, happily holding hands, embracing and kissing to order. Bishop Nulty looked on like a benign cupid.

The couple hope to honeymoon “somewhere warm”, Emer pronounced firmly, and thereafter want to share a long, happy and full life. The big day will look after itself, suggested Emer.

“It’s about love, it’s about family,” she said, saying they both hoped for children. “It’s not just that one day.” Special St Valentine’s Day memorial Masses will be held at the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Whitefriar’s Street at 11.30am and 3pm on Thursday, St Valentine’s Day. The preacher will be Dr Nulty.

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