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The shrine of St Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street in Dublin. Photo by: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

Podcast: Lonely hearts behind book written to St Valentine in Dublin

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The shrine of St Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street in Dublin. Photo by: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

Last September I had a bee in my bonnet, an itch to scratch, a whole line of disorderly ducks to get in a row. What I’m trying to say is, I had a story I just had to tell! For over ten years, I’d been visiting Whitefriar’s Church in Dublin, reading the book to St. Valentine, imagining the stories behind the prayers. One day, I decided to stop imagining, and actually talk to the people who wrote in the book.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the relics of St. Valentine – some of his bones and a vial tinged with his blood – are in a small casket under a shrine in Whitefriar Street Church, a beautiful old church full of echoes and candles, just off a busy Dublin city street. On the shrine lies a simple, soft cover notebook, where locals and tourists alike write their prayers to Valentine.

People write to Valentine about all matters of the heart – they tell him what they long for, they ask him to help, they write down their most secret hopes and fears - it’s all there within the pages. The book is an incredibly compelling document; discovering it is almost like finding someone’s diary… except it’s public.

With the help of the local priest, I found people who contributed to the book and who were generous enough to talk to me. The result is this radio story, which turned out to be both much funnier and also, much more moving than I’d bargained for.

 It was originally broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and you can listen to it here:

* Maeve Higgins is a stand up comedian and writer from Ireland now living in New York.

For more visit her website www.maevehiggins.com or on Twitter @maevehiggins.

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