February 14 is St. Valentine's Day - a day honored worldwide by lovers, who use the occasion to send messages of undying affection to their sweetearts. Its also a day known to postmen (though not as eagerly awaited) who are burdened with carrying those messages on hundreds of thousands of cards decorated with hearts and flowers. Though the red heart has become the traditional symbol of Valentine's Day, there may be reason to also consider the Shamrock, for there is an Irish connection.
The exchange of affectionate messages has been a custom since Roman times, and cards have been used since the 16th century. Although the name of St. Valentine (a third century Christian martyr beheaded in Rome about 269 AD) has become attached to this ritual, little is known about the man. What is known, however, is that St. Valentine's feast day on the Church calendar happens to coincide with ancient pagan celebrations of spring, perhaps explaining why the amorous rites associated with the celebration have become attached to his name. The Irish connection with St. Valentine however, is much more recent.
In the year 1836, Pope Gregory XVI sent a gift to the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street in Dublin. The gift was in recognition of the work of the Church's former prior, Father John Spratt, who was widely recognized as a very holy man. The gift was a relic of a Christian martyr - a small gold-bound casket containing the earthly remains of St. Valentine. The relic had been exhumed from the cemetary of Saint Hyppolytus, on the Tiburtine Way in Rome, placed in a special casket, and brought to Dublin where it was enshrined in the little Church with great ceremony.
Each year, on February 14, the casket containing the Saint's mortal remains is carried in solemn procession on the high altar of the Carmelite Church for a special Mass dedicated to young people and lovers everywhere. This little known Dublin Church also sells Valentine's Day cards, and those that are purchased there can truly be said to be the genuine article!