Words at the Shrine of St. Valentine 13.02.23
I welcome all of you to the Shrine of St. Valentine here in Whitefriar Street Church. It is to here that the Carmelite Fr. John Spratt, who was a tireless worker for the homeless and the poor, brought the relics of St. Valentine. He was gifted them by Pope Gregory XVI for the eloquence of his preaching while on a visit to Rome in 1835. Over the years thousands of couples like Ilona and Patrick & Orla and PJ have come for a blessing, to light a candle, to leave behind an intention.
I often think at the Shrine here we concentrate too much on the relics and miss the quiet witness of the many couples who come here from all over the world with their own story of love, of joy, of hope for a brighter future. A week ago southern Turkey and northern Syria were decimated by earthquakes, the number of casualties continues to grow exponentially each passing day. It’s nearly a year since the invasion of Ukraine, too many casualties, so many spouses and families displaced and separated.
The message that God is with us, God is journeying with us, even in our darkest hour, He is there. It’s important for the couples here today to realise this, as its important for all of living on this fragile planet. The sacrament of marriage reassures every couple that God will never leave them. This joy is what we are celebrating this day that He is always by our side.
Choosing to celebrate the sacrament of marriage is a profound decision in the life of a couple. Our two couples represent the many couples across this island who will celebrate the sacrament this coming year, connecting their love for one another to the source of love, who is God. A sacrament is like the 3-D glasses we watched movies with; love is not just between the couple themselves, but firmly united with God.
Pope Francis is very anxious that we accompany couples in their life journey. Like God, we too are by their side, walking alongside the couple, at their pace, in their step. The day a couple celebrates the sacrament of marriage is a huge day of joy and celebration; maybe we should also find some way of marking their first, second and third anniversaries! Sending them a card, remembering to text, give them a call. Perhaps our parish communities might find ways of welcoming young couples, I think of a designated ‘Sunday of Welcome’. Accord, through its three autonomous companies, looks forward to developing Marriage Enrichment Programmes that would support couples with skills for the pressures of life today.
But today is about Ilona and Patrick & Orla and PJ who like thousands before them have come to the Shrine of St. Valentine for a blessing, as they continue their preparation for marriage. We pray for them and all couples preparing for the sacrament at this time.