Category: Archive

Dublin’s desolate Valentine

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Rosalie O’Brien

DUBLIN — In Whitefriar Street Church, the shrine of St. Valentine, patron saint of lovers, is directly across from the shrine of St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases. To many single Dubliners, this makes a lot of sense.

Dating in Dublin should be easy. After all, it’s a young city. There are three times as many single 25-35-year-olds here than there were 10 years ago. It’s a social city. When they’re not designing software, Dublin’s singles are out on the town proving that disposable income is just that — disposable. It’s a cosmopolitan city. Whether you prefer Italian, French, Spanish, Nigerian, or traditional Irish . . . there is something (rather, someone) for everyone.

Yet many Dubliners are cynical about love, and have a Machiavelli-meets-Chuck Woolery approach to dating. This month’s maiden issue of The Dubliner described dating as a "ritual in which two people who don’t know each other all that well decide to go out for an evening to discover if they like each other enough to have sex."

While most singles prowl in trendy bars and restaurants, some look for love online. In cyberspace you can read a candidate’s "profile" to pre-screen him or her before meeting face to face. Ireland’s first free, anonymous online dating service, unattached.com, attracted nearly 2,000 members in its first year — mostly between the ages of 25 and 35.

An older crowd, between 30 to 50 years, prefers more direct intervention. One agency, Who’s Who for the Unattached, has nearly 2,000 members who are paired up by a professional matchmaker.

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Whether they do it in person, online or through an agency, it’s clear that many people are looking for love. For those who haven’t found it, the feast of St. Valentine feels more like a famine — a holiday created to make them feel lonely and miserable. Wine and roses, chocolate and cupid, are all part of the conspiracy.

And yet the story of St. Valentine is more about being heartsick than happy.

In the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II made it illegal for young men to marry. He thought that single men made better soldiers because married men would not want to leave home (little did the emperor know of marriage). Despite the Emperor’s decree, Valentine secretly married young couples.

He was arrested. While in jail, he fell in love with the daughter of his judge, and cured her blindness. Because he would not renounce his faith, he was clubbed to death and beheaded. His last letter to his love was signed, "From your Valentine."

His remains came to Whitefriar Street Church in 1836. Pope Gregory XVI gave them to Father John Spratt for preaching at the Gesu, a Jesuit church in Rome.

To this day, St. Valentine’s bones rest in a compact casket in a quiet shrine. On the 14th, engaged couples will visit the shrine to have their rings blessed. And possibly a few singles — forgetting for a moment the cynicism of the dating scene — will have a quick word for Valentine before turning to Jude.

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