The Shrines of Whitefriar Street
Whitefriar Street Church is probably best known for the various shrines to which it is home. Every day, many people come and pray at the various shrines.
The Shrines include:
Throughout the centuries since Valentine received martyrdom there have been various basilicas, churches and monasteries built over the site of his grave. Therefore, over the years, many restorations and reconstructions took place at the site. In the early 1800’s, such work was taking place and the remains of Valentine were discovered along with a small vessel tinged with his blood and some other artifacts.
In 1835 an Irish Carmelite by the name of John Spratt was visiting Rome. Apparently his fame as a preacher had gone before him, no doubt brought by some Jesuits who had been in Dublin. The elite of Rome flocked to hear him and he received many tokens of esteem from the doyens of the Church. One such token came from Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) and were the remains of Saint Valentine.
On November 10th, 1836, the Reliquary containing the remains arrived in Dublin and were brought in solemn procession to Whitefriar Street Church where they were received by Archbishop Murray of Dublin. With the death of Fr. Spratt interest in the relics died away and they went into storage. During a major renovation in the church in the 1950s/60s they were returned to prominence with an altar and shrine being constructed to house them and enable them to be venerated. The statue was carved by Irene Broe and depicts the saint in the red vestments of a martyr and holding a crocus in his hand.
Today, the Shrine is visited throughout the year by couples who come to pray to Valentine and to ask him to watch over them in their lives together. The feast-day of the saint, February 14th, is a very popular one. On the feast-day, the Reliquary is removed from beneath the side-altar and is placed before the high altar in the church and there venerated at the Masses. At the 11.30am and 3.00pm Masses there are special sermons and also a short ceremony for the Blessing of Rings for those about to be married.
Our Lady of Dublin
Ireland is fortunate in that she still possesses a number of ancient wooden sculptures, including several of Our Lady and a few of the Irish saints. The oldest of these figures is the twelfth-century Madonna and Child from Kilcorban, Co. Galway. The figure venerated in the Carmelite church today under the title of “Our Lady of Dublin” has been compared in style to some of the early sixteenth-century sculptures in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster, and is probably of this period. It is a life size figure in oak, showing Our Lady holding her Child. Originally brightly painted, the figure had been later whitewashed over, unfortunately, the removal of the whitewash in 1914 also took off the ancient polychrome surface as well. The extended arm of the Child is a modern restoration.
It is said that this statue originally belonged to St. Mary’s Cistercian abbey on the north bank of the Liffey in Dublin. This abbey was frequently visited both by the English nobility and by royal officials from England who stayed there when in Dublin. Thus it would not be surprising to find the Dublin Cistercians in possession of a statue belonging to the same school of art as some of the sculptures in Westminster Abbey. St. Mary’s was surrendered in 1539, at the Reformation, and the statue is said to have been used as a trough in an adjacent inn yard. It was common practice to hollow the backs of such wooden figures, both to reduce weight and prevent the wood warping and splitting; thus laid face down, the figure could form a shallow trough for pigs.
It is first mentioned in an account of the Catholic chapels of Dublin written by an unnamed Protestant in 1749. This states that “In Mary’s Lane is a parochial chapel whose jurisdiction extends from one side of Boot Lane to one side of Church Street. It is a large and irregular building. On the Epistle side of the altar stands a large image of the Blessed Virgin with Jesus in her arms, carved in wood; which statue at the dissolution belonged to St. Mary’s Abbey”. Mary’s Lane chapel was served by the Jesuits; its site is now occupied by a block of flats called St. Michan’s House. In 1816, the old chapel was converted for use as a school and a new church erected in St. Michan’s parish. The whitewashed figure appears to have been discarded, and found its way into a second-hand shop in Capel Street. Here, Father Spratt of Whitefriars saw it in 1824 and immediately went in and purchased it, for a nominal sum.
Although Dr. Spratt saved the figure, the ancient silver crown that went with it was sold for the value of the metal and melted down. The last account of the crown is given by the distinguished archaeologist Petrie, who saw it in a jeweller’s window waiting sale. He said that “it was a double arched crown such as appears on the coins of Henry VII and on his only: a circumstance which marks with exact precision the age of the statue which it had adorned”. Petrie’s dating of the crown, and thus the statue, corresponds with the dating of the statue on stylistic grounds by comparison with the work in Westminster Abbey. But if the crown really belonged to the statue, it raises a grave doubt of the truth of the story of the use of the statue as a trough, and suggests rather that crown and figure were concealed together in some hiding place at the Reformation and subsequently restored for Catholic veneration to some Catholic chapel as soon as it was safe to do so. It may well have been venerated elsewhere before it appears in the Mary’s Lane chapel.
Dr. Spratt placed the statue on the Epistle side of the high altar in the new Whitefriars church. In 1915, after the figure had been cleaned, the shrine of Our Lady of Dublin was formally erected in the Carmelite church.
The brief letter (Epistle) of St. Jude is the principal means by which we can come to know the saint. It seems to have been written to meet the same crisis in the early Church as St. Peter’s second Epistle, the two letters contain similar material and warnings. Jude warns his correspondents — who were perhaps the convert Jews in Palestine — to beware of the false teaching of “godless men” who have found “their way secretly into your company, and are perverting the life of grace our God has bestowed on us into a life of wantonness; they even deny Jesus Christ, our one Lord and Master”. Although written for a particular danger and to check the spread of one early body of heretical teaching, the danger is one that the Church has to face in every age, and in every baptized individual. We all come up against arguments against the faith that are not true and need St. Jude’s reminder — “You have a battle to fight over the faith that was handed down, once for all to the saints …” “It is for you to make your most holy faith the foundation of your lives, and to go on praying in the power of the Holy Spirit; to maintain yourselves in the love of God, and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with eternal life for your goal.”
St. Jude goes on to say what should be the relationship between Catholics and the men who were spreading error. Some of them, he writes, you should listen to and then confute in argument; others you should be able to convert, but some you can only pity and avoid. It is still sound advice to the modern Catholic. He has nothing to fear in the encounter. “There is one who can keep you clear of fault, and enable you to stand in the presence of his glory, triumphant and unreproved, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes; to him who alone is God, to him, who gives us salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, glory and majesty and power and domination are due, before time was, and now, for all ages. Amen.”
Just because we know so little for certain about the careers of the different Apostles, legend and invention soon built up stories of their lives. There is a legend of St. Jude, purporting to give an account of his missionary activities and martyrdom, but it would be foolish to give much credence to it. There may, however, be a real tradition at the back of the stories about the different countries in which the Apostles worked — that these were the particular areas or directions into which each penetrated. Thus St. Simon and St. Jude are said to have travelled to Persia and to have suffered martyrdom there; they share the same feast-day in the Church’s calendar, on 28th October. But nobody seems to know how St. Jude came to be the saint to whom people pray for apparently hopeless cases.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
The Sacred Scriptures speak of the beauty of Mount Carmel where the Prophet Elijah defended the faith of Israel in the living God. There, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, under the title of “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” the Order of Carmelites had its formal beginning. From the fourteenth century this title, recalling the countless blessings of its patroness, began to be solemnly celebrated, first in England and then gradually throughout the whole Order. It attained its supreme place from the beginning of the seventeenth century when the General Chapter declared it to be the principal feast of the Order, and Paul V recognised it as the feast of the Scapular Confraternity.
St Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse was born in 1873, at Alençon in France, the youngest of a family of nine girls, four of whom died in infancy. After their mother died of cancer, the family moved to Lisieux, and there the girls came to know the Discalced Carmelite nuns there. Four of them entered the Lisieux convent, Thérèse at an early age in 1888. In 1893, Thérèse was appointed assistant mistress of novices. She died of tuberculosis on 30th September 1897.
The Lisieux convent, and especially Thérèse own sisters in it, became convinced, even before Thérèse died, of her holiness. They had made her write a brief autobiography and an account of her spiritual teaching. Thérèse told her sister, Pauline (Mother Agnes), to cut and edit her writing as she judged fit. Mother Agnes did considerable rewriting on the saint’s original texts—which, published as they stood, would have made no appeal to the literary taste of the contemporary public. In 1898, the Lisieux Carmel had 2,000 copies printed of The Story of a Soul; a bold venture, for how would they ever sell them? Even with Mother Agnes’s editing, some Carmelite convents did not like the new book! But in twelve years, it sold 47,000 copies, and the demand went on rising. The unknown Thérèse from a French provincial convent was acclaimed as a saint, and a great spiritual teacher—because of her “little way”. Thérèse had said that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth—it seemed those who prayed to her for help were finding that her wish had been granted. Thérèse cause was introduced in 1914, she was beatified in 1923, and canonised in 1925. One of the most popular, if not the most popular, saints of modern times, she has been named, with St. Francis Xavier, patron of Catholic missions.
Thérèse was an extraordinary person and one of great strength. Her ambitions to do great things for God were boundless, she wanted to be a priest, a missionary, a martyr, a crusader, all at once. Joan of Arc was her heroine, and a Russian Orthodox writer has claimed that they resemble each other closely, almost alone among saints, these two do not see holiness as an ascent from earth to heaven, but the reverse; they try to bring heaven down to earth. For others, Thérèse’s “little way” is the little way of ordinary folk, it is not a teaching confined to the routine of a Carmelite convent, but a teaching for the routine of daily life everywhere.
The Shrine of St Thérèse in Whitefriars Street Church was blessed in September 1955 by the Rt. Rev Mgr Vernon Johnson of St James’, Spanish Place, London. The statue of the saint, designed in marble, is a replica of the statue of the saint over the High Altar in the crypt of the Basilica in Lisieux. It stands above the altar with an impressive background which depicts, in mosaic, a statue of Our Lady of the Smile, which was originally designed for the Church of St Sulpice, Paris, by Bouchardon in 1750.
St. Albert of Sicily
St. Albert of Sicily is one of the many famous saints, of whom very little is known, the so-called “Lives” being merely collections of pious legend. He belongs to the thirteenth century and to the first period of Carmelite settlement and expansion in the west. He was born in Trapani in Sicily. This island was an obvious choice for the Carmelites, coming west from Palestine, in which to make a foundation. Young Albert appears to have been attracted by the newcomers, and entered the Order at Trapani.
After his ordination, Albert was sent to the priory at Messina, also in Sicily, and this was the main centre of his life’s work. St. Albert typified the new kind of Carmelite that adaptation to the west produced, a man of prayer and penance, a lover of solitude, but also a man engaged in study and in the active apostolate. There were many Jews living in Sicily at this time, and Albert seems to have made them a special object, and been successful in making converts. He is also said to have written books, though none survive, and he is regarded as patron of Carmelite studies. The order recognised his many and outstanding abilities. He was elected Provincial of Sicily and attended the General Chapter at Bruges in 1297, in that capacity. However, he spent the last years of his life before his death in 1306, living in hermitage near Messina. Recognised as a wonder worker during his lifetime, miracles and cures continued to be attributed to Albert’s intercession after his death. His cult spread quickly through the whole of the Order. The celebration of his feast, on 7th August was introduced into the Carmelite rite in 1411.
Like the Dominican, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Albert is one of the saints to have blessed water in his honour. A legend attributes the custom to St. Albert himself. A relic of the saint is dipped in the water and a prayer said in which St. Albert’s intercession is asked for all who use the water; that they will gain healing of body and soul thereby. Dr. Spratt who had lived in a priory dedicated to St. Albert in Spain, brought the devotion back to Ireland, and the new Whitefriar Street church, in which he inaugurated the well of St. Albert.
Bl. Titus Brandsma
Born at Bolsward (The Netherlands) in 1861, Blessed Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelite Order as a young man. Ordained priest in 1905, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in Rome. He then taught in various schools in Holland and was named professor of philosophy and of the history of mysticism in the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he also served as Rector Magnificus.
He was noted for his constant availability to everyone. He was a professional journalist, and, in 1935, he was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. During the 1930’s, he visited Ireland and stayed in Kinsale with the Carmelite Community there to improve his English before giving a series of lectures in the United States.
Both before and during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands he fought, faithful to the Gospel, against the spread of the Nazi ideology and for the freedom of Catholic education and the Catholic press. For this he was arrested and sent to a succession of prisons and concentration camps where he brought comfort and peace to his fellow prisoners and did good even to his tormentors. In 1942, after much suffering and humiliations, he was killed at Dachau. He was beatified by John Paul II on November 3rd, 1985.
St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Protector of the Child Jesus. Little is known about Joseph except that he was of the line of David which was essential in order for Jesus to be legally of the house and line of David in fulfillment of the Scriptures. What is more important for us is the example which Joseph left us. He was a man of faith who played his role in God’s salvific plan for us; he was obedient to the will of God; he had a love for the Law and its fulfillment; he showed piety and fortitude in times of trial; he had a chaste love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and he exercised his paternal authority with due care. He is therefore a true example of Christian living and is the Protector of the Church and of the Carmelite Order. Joseph is also the patron of carpenters and manual workers.
The Calvary Shrine is to be found in the entrance hallway to the Church coming in the main door from Aungier Street. The scene depicts life size statues of Our Lord upon the Cross with his Mother and the disciple he loved looking up at him. At the foot of the Cross kneels Mary of Magdala. The scene is raised up on a stone plinth upon which people place their lighted candles.
We know nothing definitely about the parents of the Mother of God. One of the apocryphal gospels says that they were named Joachim and Anne, and goes on to relate that Mary was the child of old age and the prayers of parents who, till then, had not been blessed with children. But the account is so obviously a copying of the story of the birth of Samuel in the Old Testament, and to a lesser extent, of St. John the Baptist in the New, that it would be unwise to attach any serious belief to it. It is, of course, quite probable that the names of Our Lady’s parents were well known and have been correctly passed on to us.
We do, however, venerate Joachim and Anne as the parents of the Mother of God, as the two individuals chosen by God for this very special vocation. Just as devotion to Our Lady first flowered in its fullness in the east and then spread westwards, so likewise did devotion to St. Anne. Even today, the Church in the east makes rather more of her than does that of the west. In the Latin rite, St. Anne has a single feast-day, on 26th July. In the Byzantine rite (one of the several eastern rites) the Dormition of St. Anne is commemorated on 25th July. In addition, Our Lady’s parents, Anne and Joachim, are commemorated, logically enough, on 9th September, the day following the feast of Our Lady’s birthday. The feast of Our Lady’s (Immaculate) Conception, was observed by the east long before the west, in the Byzantine calendar it is kept on 9th December and titled the feast of St. Anne’s Conception of the Mother of God.
As the Carmelites came from the east to the west, it is not surprising to find that devotion to St. Anne is a feature of Carmelite life, and that they helped forward it in Europe. Her feast is included in the two earliest Carmelite ordinals, and the General Chapter of 1375 ordered a daily commemoration to be made of her in the liturgy.
In the western Church as a whole, the devotion spread slowly; taking root in some areas early, in some late. Probably under eastern influence, she appears in an eight century fresco in Rome in the ruined church of S. Maria Antiqua in the Forum. But it was not until 1382 that her feast was introduced into the general calendar of the Latin rite in the west.
The Normans seem to have been attracted to St. Anne early on, and brought the devotion to Ireland. It was strong in Dublin in the Middle Ages and, elsewhere in Ireland, some ancient holy wells were rededicated to St. Anne. A fine example is St. Anne’s well at Tomhaggard in Co. Wexford, where, in recent years, the well has been made the centre of a beautiful shrine and the ancient pattern (pilgrimage) in St. Anne’s honour, restored. Brittany too, was an early centre of devotion to St. Anne d’Auray (25-26 July) and Sainte Anne la Palud (23-24 August) are among the most famous and well-attended of the traditional Breton pilgrimages.
St. Anne, grandmother of Christ, is, of course, very specially the patron of all Catholic wives and mothers.
The Sacred Heart
Devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus) is one of the most widely practiced and well-known devotions, taking Jesus Christ's physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.
This devotion is predominantly used in the Catholic Church and among some high-church Anglicans and Lutherans. The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The origin of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a Roman Catholic nun from France, Marguerite Marie Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a series of apparitions which occurred between 1673 and 1675, and later, in the 19th century, from the mystical revelations of another Roman Catholic nun, in Portugal, Mary of the Divine Heart, countess Droste zu Vischering, who requested that Pope Leo XIII consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Predecessors to the modern devotion arose unmistakably in the Middle Ages in various facets of Catholic mysticism.
In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Sacred Heart has been closely associated with Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ. In his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI stated: "the spirit of expiation or reparation has always had the first and foremost place in the worship given to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus". The Golden Arrow Prayer directly refers to the Sacred Heart.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is sometimes seen in the Eastern Catholic Churches, where it remains a point of controversy and is seen as an example of Liturgical Latinisation.
The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus' death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love.
The Feast of the Sacred Heart has been in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar since 1856, and is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost. As Pentecost is always celebrated on Sunday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart always falls on a Friday.
The Shrine is located to the left of the main altar and contains its own altar.
Our Lady of Lourdes
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is located on the left as one enters the main body of the church at Whitefriar Street. It extends from floor to ceiling and depicts the young Bernadette kneeling and looking up at Our Lady as she appeared to her.
Our Lady of Fatima
The Shrine recalls the apparition of Our Lady to three children in Fatima in 1913, and can be found to the left of the main sanctuary in the church.
Pope St. Pius X
August 21 is the memorial of Pope St Pius X. Joseph Sarto was born in 1835 and was ordained priest in 1858. He was made Bishop of Mantua in 1884 and eight years later was created Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. In 1903 he was elected Pope. During his pontificate he urged daily communion and facilitated the communion of children and the sick. He encouraged Bible reading and tackled Modernism. He died in 1914 and was canonized forty years later.
June 13 is the memorial of St Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church. Anthony was born in Lisbon,Portugal, in 1195. He first joined the Augustinian canons regular but later left to become a Friar Minor of St Francis. He was known to his contemporaries as “The Hammer of Heretics” for his dedicated preaching of the true faith. He has a reputation for retrieving lost objects of careless people. He died in 1231 and was canonized a year later in 1232, and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1947.
The Infant of Prague
The Infant Jesus of Prague is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus holding a globus cruciger, located in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic. Pious legends claim that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila and allegedly holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers.
The statue is known worldwide in relation to earlier child-Jesus icons, most prominently the Santo Nino de Atocha in Spain and Latin America (13th century), the Santo Nino de Cebu (1521) in the Philippines, and recent ones such as the Holy Infant of Good Health (from Mexico, 1939), and the Divino Niño (from Colombia, 1940's).
In addition, the statue has also merited several Papal sanctions through Pope Leo XIII who instituted the Sodality to the Infant Prague of Jesus in 1896, followed by Pope Saint Pius X who organized the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague in 1913, and most recently, Pope Benedict XVI, who granted a Canonical Coronation to the image during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009.