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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Happy St. Patrick's Day            Monday, March 17 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterSome St. Patrick's Day glimpses of Ireland

I've probably told as many lies about Ireland as any subject. None of them were intentional; I didn't know they weren't true when I made the statements, assertions, and guesses. But the more you find out about Irish history the more you appreciate how little you know and how easy it is to contradict whatever you've believed before about it. (This proves the old bromide, "a little learning is a dangerous thing.") You might guess, for example (at least I did), that throughout the century or so of struggle for independence from Great Britain, the Republican cause was supported most strongly by the Catholic church, and that the movement for independence was virtually all a Catholic phenomenon. But you'd be wrong on both counts.

The Catholic hierarchy actually opposed moves toward independence and insurrections in 19th-Century Ireland, but if that's all I said on that topic you'd probably jump to false conclusions about that, too. There's a better explanation of that than you're probably guessing. Henry VIII, after renouncing Rome and installing himself at the head of the church of England, outlawed Catholicism in the realm, including Ireland. England, Scotland, and Wales seemed to already have been bitten by the Reformation bug, already sweeping Germany and coming on strong in Switzerland and other parts of the continent, so there was not much opposition to Henry's reforms from the general population on the main island.

On the smaller, Irish, isle, however, Roman Catholicism was taken more seriously. The Irish were the lowest rung on the stratified structure of the then-British isles. They were peasants, virtually serfs, so the London monarchy and a few generations later, parliament, hardly noticed anything it considered important. But unlike the main islanders, the Irish refused to accept the Anglican church and when the Roman bishops were banished they continued worshipping secretly with underground Roman priests. But such opposition only brought them more disdain from London and the English rulers of the emerald isle. They got poorer and poorer century after century, so that by the time of the potato famine around 1840, a large portion of them died of starvation.

Finally some Catholics began demanding freedom of worship, and the government in London finally agreed to allow Ireland to have Roman bishops again and establish new Catholic churches, on condition that they would pledge loyalty to the crown and participate in no uprisings. The Pope and the new bishops generally kept their contractural obligation. This is one of the reasons one of the first popular movements for Irish independence from England, in the 19th century, was led by Protestant, not Catholic, Irish. But even more ironic is the fact that some of the most famous of them came, not from Dublin (now the capital of the independent and overwhelmingly Catholic Irish republic) but from Belfast and Londonderry, in what is now the Irish, Protestant-dominated corner of the United Kingdom.

To this day, most of the historic churches in Ireland are part of the Anglican Church (or, as it's called in Ireland, the Church of Ireland). The Anglicans have, to their credit, turned over most of the ancient monastic sites in Ireland, which are among the island nation's most valuable assets, not to the Catholic Church, but to the Dublin government, which runs them much like state parks. The greatest irony is that the church, in the cemetery of which Ireland's two most important saints are buried—Patrick, the "apostle of Ireland," and Columba, the "apostle of Scotland" is Anglican or Church of Ireland.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy


Brendan Behan, late Irish author, was the soul of courtesy, but there were times when he could give back as good as he got. Brendan and a friend were emerging from the Long Hall in Dublin during the Christmas season, and Brendan had the misfortune to bump into a lady laden with parcels, the result being to scatter her parcels all over the pavement. Brendan promptly stooped to recover them from among the feet of the passers-by and restore them to her arms, but her ladyship's temper was not satisfied.

"I'd have you know," she declared angrily, "that my husband's a detective, and, if he was here, he'd take ye!"

This was too much for Brendan, who after all had done his best. "Ma'am," said he, "I don't doubt it for a second. If he took you, he'd take anything."

Lenten thought for the day

The Judgment Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire. I know well the testimony of my Lord, who in the Psalm declares: "Thou wilt destroy them that speak a lie." And again, He says: "The mouth that betrays, kills the soul." And the same Lord says in the Gospel: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment." And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide, but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgment of the Lord Christ.

— St. Patrick, c. 385-461, Confession

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