ENTRY 1279 | April
. . . we desire each
one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full
assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish,
but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit
from Hebrews 6,
from today's lenten Orthodox
It turned out that only three, not four (as I said last time) university
students came to my place for the weekend. They are from Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles, spending the current term in a study-abroad
program in London and brought here by one of their professors for
a workshop or field trip to look into "international relations,"
a subset of political science. Belfast has a lot of international
relations issues for students to become acquainted with, in light
of the "troubles" that have brought a variety of international
peace teams to visit here and work at calming the long troubled waters.
At this writing, late afternoon Saturday, "my" students
and six additional classmates are visiting the campus of Belfast's
oldest and largest university, Queens.
When I was
at UCLA (for my master's, 1970-72), Marymount, a girls' Catholic college,
was the nearest other college campus to ours, and just as I was finishing
my degree, Marymount merged with Loyola of Los Angeles to become LMU.
That campus is now in Westchester, a suburb of Los Angeles on a bluff
near the Pacific Ocrean. When I was working in LA in 1998-2000, I
drove through Westchester, an attractive corner of the sprawling metropolis
not more than five miles from where I was living for my last nine
months there, in Marina del Rey. But I have no recollection of the
LMU campus, all built since the merging of the two colleges. Though
it is highly rated, the campus is among the smaller Catholic universities,
about the same size as St. Francis in Loretto, Pa. (where I spent
visit to Belfast was facilitated by my colleague Marda Stothers, who
found homestay accomodations for the students and set up their welcome
presentation about the fascinating "international" history
of Belfast and Ulster at Townsend Presbyterian Church this morning.
But as mentioned earlier, she is now back home in California, giving
me the privilege of hosting them. Johnny and Amber arrived yesterday,
and my third homestayer, Rainier, flew in from London this morning
and met us at Townsend church for brunch. I had either received misinformation
or misheard the schedule, because I prepared breakfast (granola with
milk, coffee, tea, and juice), thinking the meal at the church would
be lunch, only to find an elaborate spead being prepared for us all
on our arrival around 10:30.
M.D., an elder, lifelong member, and longtime officer of Townsend
Presbyterian, led the welcome discussion and retraced the complicated
history of Northern Ireland and the often troubled but simultaneously
often cordial and even warm relations between the Catholics and Protestants
(especially the Presbyterians, who are the majority denomination in
Ulster). Among the most interesting facts from his talk,I'll mention
several: though 1690 and the battle of the Boyne facilitated the ascendency
of William of Orange (a Dutch Protestant) to the throne of England
and that is considered the beginning of the Protestant-Catholic rivalries
in Ireland, the Pope of Rome actually favored William's victory (because
he defeated a pretender to England's throne who was supporting a rival
pope, then claiming to run the church in France). And, an even earlier
Pope had encouraged the English to take charge over Ireland because
England's Catholics were then better aligned to the papacy than the
more "independent" or autonomous (or I suspect, more "Orthodox")
Catholics in Ireland.
And one "factoid"
that will likely surprise most Americans who know a bit about history
and religion. My impression is that most American Presbyterians think
of their "mother church" as the Church of Scotland (the
Presbyterian established church of Scotland), but more aptly that
should be thought of as most American Presbyterians' "grandmother
church." That's because most American Prestyterians are descended
from immigrants from Presbyterian Ulster or Northern Ireland than
are those descended from Scotland. Two million northern Irish immigrants
had come to America before 1800, and at that time Presbyterianism
was America's largest denomination (something I'm surprised I had
never come across before today's talk). Even I can do that math. (But
of course Ireland's Presbyterians had immigrated there from Scotland
not many generations earlier...but it would be a way too big a stetch
to think both were really one denomination, even if the two countries
are divided only by 16 miles of water at their closest points.) Ulster
Presbyterians very early developed strong attitudes of independence
not only from England but from their Scottish mother church, and this
spirit is often cited as very influential in the independent thinking
that led America to declare its independence from our mother country.
talk, Dr. Paul drove us around the "peace wall" that separates
the Shankill (Protestant) section of Belfast from the Falls Road (Catholic)
section to see and photograph murals supporting each side of the troubles.
But he told us that riots often break out because children as young
as six and seven start throwing stones at each other, and then older
siblings and parents may get involved. He said that this very weekend
youth from his church are attending a retreat with Catholic kids from
St. Peter's parish, nearby. They will have wonderful fellowship, he
said, giving little or no thought to their religious differences,
but when they get back home some of them may soon be throwing stones
at some others on the opposite side of the "peace" wall.
the nine students from Loyola Marymount University pose for a group
photo in front of a building mural comemmorating the victory of William
of Orange's army over the forces of Scottish-Catholic King James in
1690. The victory made permanent the Protestant Reformation in England.
Below, a closer shot of the students.
I like this snippet because it confirms what we Orthodox (and Catholics)
have always said is the reason we need "saints," godly role
models: The Apostle says we are to be "imitators of those who
through faith and patience inherit the promises." Some reformers
argue that we should be imitators of Jesus alone. But although we
must do that, it's easier to do it when we see that others (even "a
great cloud of witnesses") have been able to excel in that practice
despite their all-too-human failings and frailties.
§ § §
If you missed
my overview of my venture in Northern Ireland, check it out here.
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