-statuary of the “Murdered Mayors”, or more formally, the “Martyrs of Dublin”, Bls Margaret Ball & her grandson-in-law, Francis Taylor, which stands in front of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” -Mt 10:21
Margaret came from a prominent family. When she was 16 years old, Margaret Bermingham married Bartholomew Ball, an alderman of the City of Dublin, and a prosperous Dublin merchant, whose wealthy family operated the bridge over the River Dodder, which is still known as Ballsbridge. She then moved to the city, where the couple lived at Ballygall House in north county Dublin and had a town house on Merchant’s Quay. They had ten children, though only five survived to adulthood. Bartholomew Ball was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1553, making Margaret the Lady Mayoress of the city. She had a comfortable life with a large household and many servants, and she was recognised for organising classes for the children of local families in her home.
In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I reversed the policy of her sister Queen Mary and imposed her Religious Settlement upon her realms. In 1570 the papacy responded with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared Elizabeth to be an illegitimate usurper. During a coronation, the most illustrious, high ranking cleric available, at least the local bishop, but ultimately the Pope, himself, would place the crown on the head of the monarch, Emperor Napoleon, notwithstanding. Coronations were religious services, originally. The separation of Church and State was unthinkable. So when the Pope declares a monarch illegitimate, this means legitimate Catholic monarchs have a duty to attack this usurper and restore rightful authority. During this time of religious persecution, it was well known that Ball provided “safe houses” for any bishops or priests who might be passing through Dublin.
Her eldest son, Walter, yielding to the pressure of the times, became a Protestant and an opponent of the Catholic faith. Margaret continued to provide ‘safe houses’ for bishops and priests passing through Dublin and would invite Walter to dine with them, hoping for his reconversion to Catholicism.
Margaret Ball’s eldest son, Walter, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and advance his political, embraced the “new religion” and was appointed Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes in 1577. Margaret was disappointed with her son’s change of faith (“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!!!” -Mary D. McCormick), and tried to change his mind. On one occasion, she told him that she had a “special friend” for him to meet. Walter arrived early with a company of soldiers, and found that the “special friend” was Dermot O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel. He was celebrating Mass with the family.
But Walter was not for turning. Immediately after his installation as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1580, Walter had his mother and her personal chaplain arrested and taken to the dungeons of Dublin Castle. Due to her advanced age and severe arthritis, she had to be transported there by a wooden pallet through the streets of Dublin.
When the family protested, Walter declared that his mother should have been executed, but he had spared her. She would be allowed to go free if she “took the Oath”, which probably referred to the Oath of Supremacy. Her second son, Nicholas, who supported her, was elected Mayor of Dublin in 1582. However, Walter was still Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, which was a royal appointment. He outranked Nicholas and kept him from securing their mother’s release from prison. Nicholas visited her daily, bringing her food, clothing and candles.
Ball died in 1584 at the age of sixty-nine, which was an advanced age at the time. She was crippled with arthritis and had lived for three years in the cold, wet dungeon of Dublin Castle with no natural light. She could have returned to her comfortable home at any time had she apostasized. Although she could have altered her will, she still bequeathed her property to Walter upon her death.
Two generations later this pattern was repeated when Francis Taylor, who was Mayor of Dublin (1595–1596) and was married to Gennet Shelton, a granddaughter of Ball, was condemned to the dungeons after exposing fraud in the parliamentary elections to the Irish House of Commons. He likewise refused to “take the oath” and died in Dublin Castle in 1621. A convinced Catholic, he refused to accept the Acts of Supremacy (Monarch is the head of the Church) and Uniformity (The Book of Common Prayer is the only legal form of worship and all citizens must attend Church services according to that form).
Ball and Taylor could not have known each other, but they were beatified together, along with Dermot O’Hurley and 14 other Catholic martyrs, on 27 September 1992 by Pope John Paul II.
Blessed Charles Mahoney. This Irish Franciscan was another victim of the evil Titus Oates.
Charles Mahoney (alias Meehan) was born in Ireland around 1639/40. He and his three brothers, James, Terence and Christopher, were educated by their uncle, Fr Bonaventure OSF, who was guardian of St Anthony’s College in Louvain. Three of the boys, Charles, Terrence and James, followed in their uncle’s footsteps and became priests.
In 1674, several years after his ordination, Charles was sent to Germany to study theology. He remained there for two years then spent another two years in Rome, preaching and teaching at the Irish Franciscan College of St Isadore. Then, in 1678, Charles was sent back to Ireland. Charles was aboard a ship heading for home when disaster struck. In a raging storm his ship was wrecked off the coast of Wales. With some of his belongings, he managed to swim ashore near Milford Haven in West Wales.
The plucky Franciscan decided to travel North, on foot, in the hope of finding a ship bound for Ireland. Unfortunately, Charles didn’t get very far. In June 1678 he was arrested not far from Denbigh and imprisoned in Denbigh Gaol. In the spring of 1679, Charles Mahoney was tried, found guilty of being a Catholic priest, which was considered treason, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual punishment for treason.
On 12th August 1679, Fr Charles Mahoney was taken from his prison, tied to a horse-drawn hurdle and dragged to a spot outside the town. Here the awful sentence was carried out.
The months of July and August 1679 were busy ones for the anti-Catholic authorities. Titus Oates and his fellow perjurers must have been smugly satisfied too. Executions of Catholic priests were being carried out in various parts of England and Wales. In Wales, Fr Philip Evans SJ and a secular priest, Fr John Lloyd, were barbarously executed in Cardiff on 22nd July. Just over the border, in Hereford, eighty year old Fr John Kemble, another secular priest, met his fate on 22nd August. Fr Kemble, a cousin of St David Lewis, had spent fifty-four years ministering to the Catholics of Herefordshire and Monmouth. On that same day Fr John Wall, a Franciscan, was executed at Red Hill, Worcester. Fr Wall, who ministered mainly in the Worcester area, was a classmate and friend of our Last Welsh Martyr, St David Lewis. Fr David Lewis SJ followed his friends and fellow priests to martyrdom on 27th August at Usk. All five were canonised in 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
The British Museum is in possession of a one page document entitled “The Last Speeches of Three Priests that were executed for Religion, Anno Domini 1679”. The document reads; “An Account of the words spoken by Mr Charles Mahony, an Irish priest of the holy Order of St Francis, who was executed in his Habit at Ruthin in North Wales, August 12, 1679.
‘Now God Almighty is pleased I should suffer Martyrdom, His Holy Name be praised, since I dye for my religion. But you have no right to put me to death in this country, though I confessed myself to be a priest, for you seized me as I was going to my native country, Ireland, being driven at Sea on this coast, for I never used my Function in England before I was taken, however, God forgive you, as I do and shall always pray for you, especially for those that were so good to me in my distress. I pray God bless our King, and defend him from his enemies, and convert him to the Holy Catholick Faith. Amen.’ His age was under forty. He was tryed and condemned at Denby confessing himself to be a priest.”
In the centuries after Christianity came to Ireland, Roman Catholicism thrived there. In the Dark Ages it was monks from Ireland, “the island of saints and scholars,” studying in Ireland and then moving out around Europe that helped preserve European civilization. But from the time that Henry VIII broke with the Church in the 1530s until the present day, all that changed and Ireland became a place of conflict.
Some of the first casualties of that conflict were the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Between 1534 and 1714, 260 Catholic clergy and laity were martyred in Ireland. One of those was Father William Tirry. William was born in Cork City in 1608 to a very prominent family. Twenty members of his family had been mayors of Cork through the years and his uncle was Bishop of the Diocese of Cork-Cloyne. The Tirrys were what was known as “old English,” those who had come after the Norman-English, but by the time William was born had been in Ireland for hundreds of years. Though they were loyal to the English crown, they were also staunch Catholics. William was a studious lad and, as was often the case in those days in prominent Catholic families, he was steered toward the priesthood. Though he spoke English and also learned Latin, Irish was his first language, another factor that would have enhanced his identification with Irish culture.
At the age of 18 William was accepted to study in the Augustinian order as a postulant at Cork’s “Red Abbey.” He later went to the continent, where he studied philosophy in the famous Augustinian house of study in Valladolid, Spain, where he was also ordained between 1634 and 1636. He then taught theology at the Augustinian College in Paris. He may have been back in Ireland by 1638. It was a fateful time in Irish history, as the Rising of 1641 was to begin shortly. Father Tirry was secretary for his uncle, the bishop, for a time. After the rebellion began, Cork was the headquarters of the Protestants of Munster province and remained relatively calm for a few years. Father Tirry was tutor to the children of two of his cousins during this time, the Sarsfields and Everards. The Everards lived in Fethard, County Tipperary, and would be very important to Father Tirry in the final years of his life.
In 1644, the ongoing conflict in Ireland finally disrupted Father Tirry’s life in Cork City, as the Catholic clergy was forced to flee. Father Tirry took refuge in the Augustinian friary in Fethard. He had several fairly peaceful years there, becoming the assistant to Father Denis O’Driscoll in 1646. They were able to minister to the local Catholics in relative peace for a few years, but the specter of Cromwell was on the horizon.
In June 1649 Father Tirry was appointed the prior of the Augustinian house in Skreen, County Meath. But Cromwell landed August 15th and occupied that area. It’s likely that Father Tirry either never took up that post, or had to flee it shortly afterwards, as he was still in Fethard in 1650. Father Peter Taaffe, who was appointed prior in Drogheda at the same time, died in the massacre by Cromwell’s troops there.
In the spring of 1650, Cromwell’s army arrived in Fethard and all the Augustinians had to scatter to the countryside and go into hiding. Father O’Driscoll and Father Tirry remained on the run in hiding in the area for the next four years, while ministering to the Catholics of the town. Father Tirry was said to have sometimes moved about disguised as a soldier and for much of the time was often hidden in the home or on the property of his former employers, the Everards. Many people in town knew the Everard family was hiding him, but for several years none betrayed him.
On January 6, 1653, the English parliament declared any Roman Catholic priest found to be ministering to a congregation in Ireland to be guilty of treason. Some priests fled to the continent, but many did not, including Father Tirry. Those who stayed had a bounty put on their heads and priest hunters roamed the countryside. It was a time of great suffering in Ireland, when famines were common and many were desperate and starving. Eventually he was betrayed by three local people, who each received 5£s.
On Holy Saturday, March 25, 1654, English soldiers broke into Father Tirry’s hiding place at the Everard property and arrested him. He was in his vestments preparing to celebrate a Mass somewhere and they also found papers in which he defended the Catholic faith. This was irrefutable evidence against him.
-part of the old city and town walls of Fethard, Ireland
Ordinarily this would have resulted in Mrs. Everard (a widow) being arrested and probably executed for aiding a priest, but the family must have been well connected and she was not harmed. Father Tirry was transported to Clonmel Gaol. Not every clergyman who was caught at the time was executed — some were deported. There were several other held in the gaol with Father Tirry then who were banished rather than being executed, including Fathers Walter Conway and Matthew Fogarty, who would provide much of the extant information of Father Tirry’s imprisonment and execution. Fathers Conway and Fogarty reported that Father Tirry immediately improved the morale of the prisoners with his piety and positive attitude.
His efforts ministering to the local population over the preceding decade must have left a strong impression on them, for Conway and Fogarty reported that when the Catholics in the area heard that Father Tirry was in the gaol, crowds of them came there to see him. Marshal Richard Rouse, who ran the gaol, apparently admired Father Tirry as well, as he went out of his way to see to his comforts and allowed some of his many visitors to see him.
As with nearly all trials of Irishmen at that time and for nearly three more centuries to come, the assigned jurors were those the government trusted to return the “correct” verdict. This jury included a Cromwellian commissioner and an army colonel who would no doubt keep the other jurors in line. And in the case of Father Tirry, it’s likely that his high standing with the local Catholic population worked against him with regard to banishment versus execution, as did the writings that found when he was arrested, which were highly critical of the Protestant church of Ireland. If he knew that, it did not cause him to waver in his faith.
At his trial, when pressed to bend to the government’s authority, he replied that, “in temporal matters I acknowledge no higher power in the kingdom of Ireland than yours, but in spiritual affairs wherein my soul is concerned, I acknowledge the Pope of Rome and my own superiors to have greater power over me than you others.” He must have known such a pronouncement would make them believe that even if exiled he would return again, ensuring his death, but his faith was stronger than his fear of death.
Both Fathers Tirry and Fogarty, who were tried together, were sentenced to death, but in Fogarty’s case the sentence was commuted to banishment. Marshal Rouse allowed Father Tirry to be held in a house he owned after his trial, so people could easily came and visit him while awaiting word of when his sentence would be carried out. In a last act of kindness to his flock, Father Tirry had 46 loaves of bread given to the poor to atone for the sins of his 46 years of life. On May 11th, he was informed he would die the following day, and replied in his native Irish, “God Almighty be thanked Who chose me for this happy end.”
On the morning of the 12th, Marshal Rouse arrived to take Father Tirry to be hung. After having his hands manacled, he knelt in the door and got a final blessing from his fellow priests, whose affection for him must have created a most poignant scene. The procession to the gallows was guarded by English soldiers, as well it needed to be, as the streets thronged with people coming to see their beloved priest for the last time. Many were said to be weeping and some grabbed the hem of his garment and kissed it, receiving his blessing. He walked holding a set of beads, reciting the rosary as he went to the market square of Clonmel.
Reaching the gallows, Father Tirry was allowed by Rouse to address the crowd, much to the displeasure of a Protestant reverend who implored Rouse to “get on with it” in the middle of the father’s gallows speech. But Rouse’s kindness to Father Tirry would continue. The crowd now was turning angry at what was about to happen and pressing in toward the soldiers surrounding the gallows, but Father Tirry implored them to stay calm and allow him to “go in peace.”
“I would have life and favor if I defected to you,” Father Tirry told the reverend, “but, I prefer to die for the true religion.” And, in his final comments, he showed how deep his devotion to that religion was, when he forgave the three residents of Fethard who had betrayed his location to the English, and prayed for their salvation. He also asked any priest who might be in disguise in the crowd, as they would have to be, to offer him absolution. His old friend Father O’Driscoll was, indeed, there and surreptitiously gave it. O’Driscoll was still on the run and would never be captured, but his health would be broken by that exhausting life and he would be dead the following year.
Father Tirry then signaled to Rouse, who had assured him he would not give the command to push him from the ladder on which he was standing until he was ready, that he was prepared for the end. The deed was done and the crowded gasped as the good Father’s neck snapped and his lifeless body hung before them. It was said that none who witnessed it, Catholic or Protestant, failed to be admire the strength and courage with which Father Tirry had faced his final moments on earth.
-ruins of Fethard Abbey, Ireland
The mayor of Fethard was allowed to bring Father Tirry’s body back there. He was buried in the grounds of the Abbey in Fethard, though its exact location is lost to us. His sacrifice for his faith was not forgotten by the people of Ireland, however. In 1919, Father Tirry was one of 260 Irish martyrs whose names were submitted to Rome for sainthood. On September 27, 1992, 17 Irish martyrs were beatified by Pope John Paul II, and on that list was William Tirry, now one step away from being a saint.
Loving Father, we praise you for the seal of holiness your Church placed on Blessed William Tirry of Fethard, who willingly gave his life for your Gospel truth which he professed and lived. Grant through his intercession an answer to our prayers now in our time of need. We pray especially for………………… May your holy will be done. We trust in your mercy, and pray too that in your blessed providence, the name Blessed William will soon be added to the list of our saints.
My mother, lovingly, and with the best of intentions for me, used to remind me, frequently, as a child, “The lightning is going to strike you, Mashew!!” Ostensibly, to keep the straight and narrow. And, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!” NO PRESSURE!!!
There is a severity in Irish Catholicism, cf joyless Irish nuns of discipline, i.e. Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, Lake Wobegon, MN. Workhouses for Wayward Girls & Truant Boys, etc. I thought the Irish were tough, until I met the Polish in Chicago!! Jeesh!!! Did anyone else notice how the Polish jokes just stopped dead cold after JPII’s election? They did.
“…Why do they call this heartless place
Our Lady of Charity?
These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their Groom
Then they’d know, and they’d drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries.
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room…” -“Magdalene Laundries”, The Chieftains, Tears of Stone, 1999
-Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638), professor at the Old University of Louvain, painting by by Evêque d’Ypres
The heresy of Jansenism is named after Cornelius Jansen, who was the Bishop of Ypres in the early 17th century. His main work, Augustinus, was published after his death. In this work, he claimed to have rediscovered the true teaching of St. Augustine concerning grace, which had been lost to the Church for centuries. Even though he was not strictly a heretic, his writings still caused great harm to the Church.
At that time, the Jesuits were heavily preaching on the mercy of God. This was seen by some as moral laxity. Also the debates with the Calvinists had an influence on Jansen’s thoughts. Without going into the details of the “five propositions from Jansen”, this heresy essentially taught that God’s saving grace is irresistible, though not given to everyone. According to Jansen, a person could neither accept or reject this grace due to his fallen nature. Although persons, who received it, were sure of salvation. Unfortunately not everyone received this saving grace. God decreed who was saved and who was lost. Jansen denied human free will and God’s desire to save everyone (1 Tim. 2:4). Even though the Jansenists hoped to combat the moral laxity of their time through moral rigorism, their denial of human free will and God’s mercy actually promoted moral despair or a carefree, frivolous life style, since personal actions had no effect on personal salvation. Due to the duplicity of its promoters, this heresy harmed the Church for over seventy years.
Summary of Catholic Teaching on Grace & Free Will:
1) The grace merited by Christ is necessary for us for all actions of piety and the exercise of every virtue and should be asked of from God.
2) With the help of grace, all the commandments of God are possible to obey, such that a chaste and holy Christian life without mortal sin is possible. Also, without this grace, we cannot do anything that is truly good, nor even persevere in good except by grace.
3) Grace prevents and aids our wills in such a way that we owe our salvation to God’s grace; if we do fall, it should be imputed to ourselves.
4) Grace strengthens and supplements our freedom, but in no way destroys it.
5) While maintaining the existence and freedom of the will, we should nevertheless remain in a posture of humility, remembering that our will is aided by grace in ways we don’t understand.
I have been trained as a catechist that the Truth, which the Church seeks, is often found in a middle course, a middle way between extremes. This is NOT splitting the difference!!! But, rather, a sincere search for and discovery of the Truth of God. The fact of the matter is, I have been trained, is that Truth happens to often be found in the moderation of extremes.
There are two known poles regarding the theological and metaphysical interplay of grace & free will, from a Roman Catholic perspective. The first, the heresy of Pelagianism, errs in assigning too great a role to free will and debasing God’s grace; the other, of course, is that of Calvinism, in which free will is negated and the operation of grace inflated to the point that we arrive at total (or double) predestination. These extremes are the Scylla and Charybdis of the theology of grace; a truly Catholic approach to this problem must sail skillfully between these two dangers, turning neither to the left nor to the right.
“The big story coming out of the weekend was the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, accompanied by barely concealed glee in some quarters at the humiliation of the Catholic Church. Here’s a hypothesis to ponder about the historical reach of theological ideas and the place of Catholicism in different cultures (not so much about the substance of the same-sex marriage debate itself), even if it might not hold up in every detail to scrutiny.
As Damian Thompson writing at the Spectator notes here, the influence of Catholicism in Ireland has waned for various reasons (most especially the sex abuse scandal), and one factor he mentions in passing is “the joyless quasi-Jansenist character of the Irish Church.” Indeed, while the Church’s influence across Europe has fallen, the collapse in those parts of Europe (or places missionized by Europeans) arguably influenced by Jansenism has been ferocious: the Low Countries (we think of Jansenism as primarily a French movement, but Cornelius Jansen himself was Dutch and Bishop of Ypres), France, Quebec, and Ireland. The place of the Church in the culture of those parts of European Catholicism less tinged by Jansenism has fared a bit better: Poland, Austria, Bavaria, Italy, and, most especially, Spain and Portugal and their former colonies in Latin America and the Philippines.
I am simplifying a great deal here, of course. There was, for example, a robust Jansenist movement in parts of modern-day Italy, and, more importantly, it is hard to say how much Jansenist influence there really was in Irish Catholicism (captured by the “quasi-” in Thompson’s essay). Because of English persecution, there were no seminaries in Ireland up through the end of the eighteenth century and so Irish clergy were often trained at Jansenist French seminaries, and there might have been some Jansenist influence in the early days at Maynooth, the Irish national seminary founded in 1795. But the scope of the actual influence of Jansenist ideas on folk Irish Catholicism is much harder to determine, as Thomas O’Connor notes in his 2007 entry on “Jansenism” in The Oxford Companion to Irish History (“The frequent claim that Irish Catholicism was Jansenist-influenced springs from the tendency to confuse Jansenism with mere moral rigorism.”). Jansenism was just one (perhaps small) factor among many contributing to Seán Ó Faoláin’s “dreary Eden.”
If there is something to this, though, we shouldn’t be surprised. Jansenism—with its hyper-Augustinianism, insistence on human depravity, confused doctrine of freedom and grace, other-worldliness, and moral rigorism—was theologically pernicious (condemned in Cum occasione by Pope Innocent X in 1653 and in Unigenitus dei filius by Pope Clement VI in 1713). A Catholic culture shaped by it distorts our understanding of the human person and society, and bad theological doctrines about God, human nature, and sin can wreak havoc even if the institutional forms of the Church endure for a time. Jansenism produced a towering genius in Blaise Pascal and a minor genius in Antoine Arnauld, but it was an unfortunate development in early modern Catholicism. As we think about how to build (or re-build, as it may be) Catholic culture, we would do well to remember that joy is at the heart of the gospel, and a Catholic culture drained of such joy by Jansenism or its cousins will, when the time comes, all too easily be swept away.”
“Why do the Irish so enjoy parades? True, everybody loves a parade, and we’re blessed to have an abundance of them here in New York City, but nothing seems to rival the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This year alone I was invited to eleven of them just in the archdiocese alone, and another dozen from around the country!
No doubt about it; while everybody loves a parade, nobody else comes close to the Irish in the diaspora – – people of Irish background whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland to other countries, especially here – – in marching on or near March 17.
I ask once again, why? Well, I’ve got a theory, which I’m happy to say is shared by observers of Irish ways far more erudite that I am.
The theory is this: for centuries, the Irish could never be public about their culture, faith, heritage, or identity in their homeland. We know why this was so from our history classes: because their British landlords and masters would not allow them to be expressive about who they were! The Irish were in subjugation; they were oppressed.
This was especially true when it came to any demonstration of their Catholic faith. A Catholic in Ireland – – over 90% of the people – – could not own land, inherit land, or vote. The Church was harassed and persecuted, with Masses celebrated clandestinely on rocks in the forest, with sentries posted to keep an eye out for the soldiers. Education in the faith could only be done in hiding.
A Catholic in Ireland could gain all the rights of British citizenship if he renounced his Catholic faith. In times of famine, one could get a bowl of soup if one turned Protestant, or was willing to eat a soup with meat in it on a Friday. Rare was the Irishman who did. Many were those who chose starvation instead, millions; genocide by any other name. They were reduced to penury, with the constant threat of eviction and hunger, and forbidden to show any signs of their faith.
My famous predecessor, Archbishop John Hughes, wrote, “For the first six days of my life, that week after my birth, I had all the rights of a British citizen. All that ended on the day of my baptism as a Catholic.”
(Editor: I remember singing this song frequently when younger, not so much now. Shame. I think the Church is trying to be more politically correct in its liturgy? Shame.)
‘Faith of our fathers, living still, In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword; Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, Were still in heart and conscience free; How sweet would be their children’s fate, If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our fathers, we will strive To win all nations unto thee; And through the truth that comes from God, We all shall then be truly free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our fathers, we will love Both friend and foe in all our strife; And preach thee, too, as love knows how By kindly words and virtuous life.’
When “dungeon, fire, and sword (see above),” joined with oppression and grinding poverty, led hundreds of thousands of Irish to leave their beloved island for places like America, they were still poor, they were still looked down upon, they were still treated like serfs, they were still harassed for their religion, but they sensed freedom, and longed to give public witness to their pride in their faith, culture, heritage, and identity.
What better way to do so than in the St. Patrick’s Day parades!
No surprise at all that the by-laws of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade would state the two purposes of the Parade Committee to be, (a) “to arrange, organize and conduct . . . a parade in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland . . .,” and . . . (b) to educate and perpetuate the principles of the Roman Catholic Church, and the culture and tradition of the Irish and Irish-American people.”
The website of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade notes that this parade is “the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world.” More important, it emphasizes that the parade was established “in honor of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland and of the Archdiocese of New York.”
It is important, especially given the strong secular currents in our society today, that we not forget why this parade exists. It is not just the Irish Parade: We march to honor St. Patrick. That is why so many cringe at and resist pleas to weaken the Catholic origins of the parade.
Those of us who are Irish-Catholic are proud of our ethnic and religious heritage, just as others who celebrate their ethnic and religious heritage are proud of theirs. To be sure, there are times when we focus exclusively on our ethnic moorings (aka, Professionally Irish) :); similarly, there are times when we honor only our religious roots. But we cannot observe the St. Patrick’s Day Parade without celebrating both our ethnic and religious heritage.
While everyone is invited to march in the parade and all are welcome, no one is permitted to use it for causes that are extrinsic to its origins.
While the archbishops of New York have never been “in charge” of the parade – – and never wanted to be! – – we have always enjoyed an enthusiastically friendly association with it. The Mass in the Cathedral that starts the grand day is jammed, and characterized by reverence and joy. And the reviewing stand on the front steps of the Cathedral has always been the best seat in the house for the festivities!
I thank those who love and lead the parade for assuring us all that the original intent of the parade, which has flourished for over two-and-a-half centuries – – to celebrate the faith, heritage, culture, and tradition of Ireland – – is preserved.
It would be particularly somber if the forces of secularism were able to do what centuries of oppressive rule were unable to do: erase the faith from Irish identity.
“During the English Reformation and the anti-Catholic centuries that followed. Many British who died for their Catholic faith in these years have been declared Venerable; others, Blessed; and 42, beginning with St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, have been canonized saints. Since some 600 Catholics in all suffered martyrdom in England and Wales during those times, it is safe to say that in the future, other names will be added to the church calendar by the popes.
But, what of Ireland and her martyrs? The campaign against Catholicism in Ireland differed somewhat from that in England, over 250 Irish women and men have been singled out as possible candidates for beatification and canonization. A few of them have already received the honors of the altar. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, has been declared a saint; and three natives of Ireland have been beatified along with the English martyrs because they met death on English soil: Bl. Charles Meehan, a Franciscan priest; and two Irish laymen, BB. John Carey and Patrick Salmon, who were servants of an Anglo-Irish Jesuit.
The reason why the cause for beatification of the Irish martyrs is so slow is an interesting one. To qualify as a martyr, a candidate’s death for the faith must be clearly documented. That was rather easy to do with most of the English martyrs, because British law required the careful preservation of court records. It was different in Ireland. As often as not, those executed for Catholicism were not even put on trial, so the circumstances of their death were not preserved. Church investigators would therefore have to search elsewhere for information – a long, and perhaps fruitless task.
When Pope John Paul II, on September 27, 1992, declared blessed seventeen Irish martyrs, he did the next best thing. He made a start on the process of selecting, from among those whose martyrdom had been verified, a group who represented a cross section of Irish Catholics: men and women, bishops, priests and lay brothers, laity from both higher and lower walks of life.
While there is still not much known about many of these, let me list them with their years of death and with brief comments:
Bl. Patrick O’Healy, bishop of Mayo, and Bl. Conn O’Rourke, both Franciscans (1579). Bl. Matthew Lambert, a baker, and three sailors: BB. Robert Mayler, Edward Cheevers, and Patrick Cavanaugh (1581). Mrs. Margaret Bermingham Ball, a widowed housewife who died in prison (1584). (She had been jailed at the insistence of her own son, who abandoned the Catholic faith and handed her over to the British officials. Bl. Margaret lived out her remaining life in patient suffering rather than disown the pope.)
Bl. Dermot O’Hurley, (Diarmaid Ó hUrthuile) Archbishop of Cashel, was suspected of knowing of a plot by the pope and the Spanish. His feet were therefore put into metal boots, filled with oil, and roasted over a fire.
Since he had nothing to confess, this brilliant man was finally given a choice between denying the pope or hanging. He was hanged in 1584.
A secular priest, Bl. Maurice McKenraghty was executed in 1585. Bl. Dominic Collins, a Jesuit lay brother, died in 1602. Bl. Conor O’Devany, a Franciscan, bishop of Down and Connor in Ulster, and Bl. Patrick O’Loughran, a priest, both died in 1612.
Bl. Francis Taylor was a prominent merchant and alderman of Dublin, where he was martyred in 1642. Bl. Terence O’Brien, the Dominican bishop of Emly, was executed in 1651. The last two of the group were Bl. John Kearney, a Franciscan priest (1654), and Bl. William Tirry, an Augustinian priest (1654).
Today, Ireland is torn apart by strife, largely religious in background. In declaring these seventeen “blessed”, the Holy Father pointed out how they had died for love, forgiving their persecutors. And he prayed God to “sustain those who work for reconciliation and peace in Ireland today.””
-marker at the tomb of Bl Dermot, Archbishop of Cashel, St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row, Dublin, Ireland
“Be it therefore known unto you…that I am a priest anointed and also a Bishop, although unworthy of soe sacred dignitites, and noe cause could they find against me that might in the least deserve the paines of death, but merely for my funcon of priesthood wherein they have proceeded against me in all pointes cruelly contrarie to their own lawes …and I doe injoin you (Deere Christian Brethren) to manifest the same to the world and also to beare witness on the Day of Judgment of my Innocent death, which I indure for my function and profession of the most holy Catholick Faith.” -last words of Bl Dermot at his execution. In the process of his beatification, one of the most valuable resources was found to be the documents and letters written by the men who tortured and executed him, attesting to his constancy, fortitude, and sanctity of his death.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. -Luke 6:22-23
-“Oliver Plunkett”, by Edward Luttrell, (d. 1737), National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 262
Oliver Plunkett was born in Loughcrew in County Meath, Ireland on November 1, 1629. In 1647, he went to study for the priesthood at the Jesuit Irish College in Rome. On January 1, 1654, he was ordained a priest in the Propaganda College in Rome.
Meanwhile, the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53) had defeated the Roman Catholic cause in Ireland and, in the aftermath, the public practice of Roman Catholicism was banned and Roman Catholic clergy were executed. As a result, it was impossible for Plunkett to return to Ireland for many years. He petitioned to remain in Rome and, in 1657, became a professor of theology. He became the Irish bishops’ representative in Rome.
Throughout the period of the Commonwealth and the first years of Charles II’s reign, he successfully pleaded the cause of the Irish Roman Church, and also served as theological professor at the College of Propaganda Fide. At the Congregation of Propaganda Fide on 9 July 1669, he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh, the Irish primatial see, and was consecrated on 30 November at Ghent by the Bishop of Ghent.
He eventually set foot on Irish soil again on 7 March 1670, as the English Restoration of 1660 had started on a tolerant basis. The pallium was granted him in the Consistory of 28 July 1670. Archbishop Plunkett soon established himself as a man of peace and, with religious fervor, set about visiting his people, establishing schools, ordaining priests, and confirming thousands.
After arriving back in Ireland, he set about reorganizing the ravaged Roman Church and built schools both for the young and for clergy, whom he found ‘ignorant in moral theology and controversies’. He tackled drunkenness among the clergy, writing ‘Let us remove this defect from an Irish priest, and he will be a saint’. The Penal Laws had been relaxed in line with the Declaration of Breda in 1660 and he was able to establish a Jesuit College in Drogheda in 1670. A year later 150 students attended the college, no fewer than 40 of whom were Protestant, making this college the first integrated school in Ireland. His ministry was a successful one and he is said to have confirmed 48000 Catholics over a 4 year period. The British Dublin Government, especially under the Duke of Ormonde ( the Protestant son of Catholic parents) extended a generous measure of toleration to the Catholic hierarchy until the mid-1670s.
On the enactment of the Test Act in 1673, to which Plunkett would not agree for doctrinal reasons, the college was levelled to the ground. Plunkett went into hiding, traveling only in disguise, and refused a government edict to register at a seaport to await passage into exile. For the next few years he was largely left in peace since the Dublin Government, except when put under pressure from London, preferred to leave the Catholic bishops alone.
In 1678, the so-called Popish Plot, concocted in England by Titus Oates, led to further anti-Roman Catholicism. Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin was arrested, and Plunkett again went into hiding. The Privy Council in London was told he had plotted a French invasion.The moving spirit behind the campaign is said to have been Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex, who had been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and hoped to resume office by discrediting James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. However, Essex was not normally thought to be a ruthless or unprincipled man and his later plea for mercy suggests that he had never intended that Plunkett should actually die.
Despite being on the run and with a price on his head, Plunkett refused to leave his flock. He was arrested in Dublin in December 1679 and imprisoned in Dublin Castle, where he gave absolution to the dying Talbot. Plunkett was tried at Dundalk for conspiring against the state by allegedly plotting to bring 20,000 French soldiers into the country, and for levying a tax on his clergy to support 70,000 men for rebellion. Though this was unproven, some in government circles were worried about, and some used the excuse, that another rebellion was being planned. The Duke of Ormonde, aware that the Earl of Essex was using the crisis to undermine him, did not defend Plunkett in public. In private he made clear his belief in Plunkett’s innocence and his contempt for the informers against him: “silly drunken vagabonds… whom no schoolboy would trust to rob an orchard”.
The English knew Oliver Plunkett would never be convicted in Ireland and had him moved to Newgate Prison, London. The first grand jury found no true bill, but he was not released. The second trial has generally been regarded as a serious miscarriage of justice; Gilbert Burnet, an eyewitness, had no doubt of the innocence of Plunkett, who he praised as a wise and sober man who had no aim but to live peacefully and tend to his congregation. Lord Campbell, writing of the judge, Sir Francis Pemberton, claimed it a disgrace to himself and his country. More recently the High Court judge Sir James Comyn called it a grave mistake: while Plunkett, by virtue of his office, was clearly guilty of “promoting the Catholic faith”, and may possibly have had some dealings with the French, there was never the slightest evidence that he had conspired against the King’s life. Plunkett was found guilty of high treason on June 1681 “for promoting the Roman faith,” and was condemned to death.
Numerous pleas for mercy were made but Charles II, although himself a reputed Catholic, thought it too politically dangerous to spare Plunkett. The French Ambassador Paul Barillon conveyed a plea for mercy from his King: Charles said frankly that he knew Plunkett to be innocent, but the time was not right to take so bold a step. Essex, apparently realizing too late that his intrigues had led to the condemnation of an innocent man, made a similar plea: the King turned on him in fury, saying ” his blood be on your head- you could have saved him but would not, I would save him and dare not”.
Plunkett’s many letters showed his determination not to abandon his people, but to remain a faithful shepherd. He thanked God “Who gave us the grace to suffer for the chair of Peter.” He was put on trial, and with the help of perjured witnesses, unable to bring his own from Ireland, and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Upon hearing sentence, he replied, “Deo Gratias!” With deep serenity of soul, he was prepared to die, calmly rebutting the charge of treason, refusing to save himself by giving false evidence against his brother bishops. Oliver Plunkett publicly forgave all those who were responsible for his death on July 1, 1681.
His body was initially buried in two tin boxes next to five Jesuits who had died before in the courtyard of St Giles in the Fields church. The remains were exhumed in 1683 and moved to the Benedictine monastery at Lamspringe, near Hildesheim in Germany. The head was brought to Rome, and from there to Armagh and eventually to Drogheda where, since 29 June 1921, it has rested in Saint Peter’s Church. Most of the body was brought to Downside Abbey, England, where the major part is located today, with some parts remaining at Lamspringe. Some relics were brought to Ireland in May 1975, while others are in England, France, Germany, the United States, and Australia.
-The shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Drogheda, Ireland. His head is just visible in the box under the spire.
Glorious Martyr, St. Oliver,
who willingly gave your life for your faith,
help us also to be strong in faith.
May we be loyal like you to the see of Peter.
By your intercession and example
may all hatred and bitterness
be banished from the hearts of Irish men and women.
May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts,
as it did in your heart,
even at the moment of your death.
Pray for us and for Ireland. Amen.
Hymn to St Oliver Plunkett
Come glorious martyr, rise
Into the golden skies,
Beyond the sun!
Wide, wide the portals fling
And martyr hosts, O sing
To greet his entering
“Well hast thou done”.
Never reproach he made,
Like to his Lord betrayed
By his own kind.
Sharing his Masters blame,
Gladly he bore the shame,
While the false charge they frame,
“Guilty” they find.
As coach of state he hails,
Hurdle of shame and trails
All rough way through London streets, he goes,
Heedless of lesser woes,
Tyburn holds greater throes,
Ready that day.
Blood stained the path he trod,
Leading him onto God,
Counting no the cost,
Now for my faith I die,
Said he in glad reply,
O for my God I sigh, All fear is lost.
Lord in Thy hands, he prays
My soul for-ever stays,
Strengthen Thou me.
Welcome, o rope and knife!
All those who made this strife
I now forgive, my life offer to Thee.
Hail then, great martyr, hail,
In death thou did prevail
Blow the full trumpets, blow,
Wider the portals throw,
Martyr triumphant go
Where waits your crown.
One of my favorites…some say a land of poets and saints? I have been twice. Very different. Very old. Can’t wait to take Mara.
I studied Irish (Gaelic) for a very short time at irish-american.org. Hard. There is no “yes” or “no” in Irish. Which explains SO MUCH!!!!!
And just remember, lads and lassies, if there is ever a topic which is uncomfortable to speak about in a family, the Irish way is to just ignore it!!!! Maybe it will go away? Right? (It never does, but at least we can pretend?) Remember, too, whenever someone does something uncouth, like burp or fart loudly, or does something truly stupid, just say, as within Irish families it is known to do, “You’re SO Irish!”
I will cherish forever my Mother’s question, very discreetly, after I informed her of a date I went on. There would be a very pregnant pause. (There is no small case of pause pregnancy, no?) And then it would always come. “Is she one of us?” Either way, my Mother would always give or feign approval. Saying, regarding any deviation from the preferred answer, “Well, that’s very nice, too.”
Seinn an duan seo dhan Innis Àigh
An innis uaine as gile tràigh
Bidh sian air uairean a’ bagairt cruaidh ris
Ach se mo luaidh-sa bhith ann a’ tàmh
Càit’ as tràith an tig samhradh caomh
Càit’ as tràith an tig blàth air craobh
Càit’ as bòidhche ‘s an seinn an smeòrach
Air bhàrr nan ògan ‘s an Innis Àigh
An t-iasg as fiachaile dlùth don tràigh
Is ann ma chrìochan is miann leis tàmh
Bidh gillean easgaidh le dorgh is lìontan
Moch, moch ga iarriadh mun Innis Àigh
‘S ged thèid mi cuairt chun an taoibh ud thall
‘S mi ‘n dùil air uairibh gu fan mi ann
Tha tàladh uaigneach le teas nach fuairich
Gam tharraing buan don Innis Àigh
O ‘s geàrr an ùine gu’n teirig latha
Thig an oidhche ‘s gun iarr mi tàmh
Mo chadal buan-sa bidh e cho suaimhneach
Mo bhios mo chluasag ‘s an Innis Àigh
Sing this song to the Happy Isle
The green isle of whitest sands
Though storms at times threaten severely
It is where I love to be
Where does Summer come earlier?
Where do trees come into bloom sooner?
Where does the thrush sing more sweetly
On the tips of branches, than in the Happy Isle?
The most prized fish closest to land
Wishes to live about its shores
Lively youths hunt it early in the morning
With line and net, around the Happy Isle
And although I sometimes go to the mainland
And at times even think that I could stay there
A sad longing whose heat never cools
Always draws me back to the Happy Isle
It is only a short time until the close of day
Night will come and I will want for rest
My eternal sleep will be so peaceful
If I lay my head in the Happy Isle
This Saturday I start Beginner Gaelic at the Irish American Heritage Center, irish-american.org, even as Ireland currently writhes in political-ecclesiastical turmoil over the sexual abuse of children by the professed. If any informed Catholic, or especially Irish-Catholic, tell you their heart is not breaking, or they’re not enraged, they’re lying to you, or are woefully ignorant of current/recent events.
I cannot yet bring myself to read the Irish government reports, only so far reading reports about reports. We always knew being an Irish kid was tough, even a little brutal, but life can be brutal and toughness is a necessary adult quality, but not to this unspeakable extent. I am very glad the truth is coming out. I know I have a problem with truth, I like it too much, in all cases and situations, especially my own, most especially my own. Those survivors can be finally believed and receive the healing they more than deserve.
The IAHC is very near where Kelly and I live. We have a family membership. Chicago boasts two Irish heritage centers! Gaelic Park, chicagogaelicpark.org, in the southern suburb of Oak Forest and the IAHC on the northwest side of the city. There is an amicable, informal understanding, Gaelic Park will focus primarily on Irish sporting events and IAHC will host literary and cultural events.
I can always tell when I am in the presence of others of Irish ancestry. The pace of wit quickens, the teasing, the loving insults, the jests and the jokes become animated and fly fast and furious. How joyful. How pleasant. How much like home. I feel most at home then. At Old St Pat’s in the Loop, those who cannot disengage their ancestry even for a moment are referred to as, “professionally Irish”. 🙂
In my two visits to the “ould sod”, literally Ireland, I learned, traditionally, it is quite impolite to ask a native Irish person the standard American 1st or 2nd question, “What do you do?”, even innocently and sincerely, as in “How much money do you make?” This, I have found in my travels of the globe, is generally true. Our culture shows its adolescence.
This introduction, so natural and second nature to Americans, is taken negatively by the Irish. An income is merely a means to an end, one’s expenses, in the native Irish mind. Some cultures have been around much longer and have had that length to distinguish what is truly important. The Irish would much prefer to know, “Are you any fun to be with? Do you tell jokes? Do you sing? Do you dance? Would I enjoy spending time with you in the pub?” A pub in Ireland is not a bar. It is not necessarily loud or abrasive or shallow or demonstrative. Quit the opposite. It is a communal extension of the community members’ living room. Babes are brought, even to be nursed. Cards are played. Good craic = fun. When a pub closes, especially if a good game of Gaelic football, footy/footie, or hurling is on and closing time comes, the regular customers leave. The intimate few are quietly migrated to the back room where the craic and the viewing and the Guinness will resume as nothing had occurred. When reopening, the opposite migration will occur with no fanfare. And, so it goes.
When I was in MBA school, one of my favorite teachers, Mark Tauber, taught us industrial psychology, although it had a much fancier, B-school sounding name. It still does. This kind, generous man learned that I had been a Dominican novice. He politely suggested I should become Episcopalian, marry, and then, I too could become a priest. Lovely man. I know my pupils dilated, and tried to keep that my only reaction. He noticed and his pupils dilated because mine did. Dear man. My mother’s voice heard, disembodied in the background, “If my children lose their Faith, I have failed as a mother!” I politely thanked him and said I would think about it. It’s an Irish thing. You wouldn’t…never mind. Reporters noticed James Joyce, the Irish author, had stopped practicing Catholicism. They asked him, “Mr. Joyce, have you become a Protestant?” He replied, “Good God, man. I’ve lost my faith, not my mind!” 🙂
The Irish, to the present, have been Catholics for 1600 years. From the consolidation of English power in Ireland and “the bloody flight of Earls”, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_of_the_Earls, early 1600s-1869, the Penal Laws were in effect in Ireland:
– being a Roman Catholic priest was punishable by death,
– saying Mass was punishable by death,
– attending Mass was punishable imprisonment,
– harboring a priest was punishable by imprisonment,
– exclusion of Catholics from most public offices,
– ban on intermarriage with Protestants,
– Catholics were tithed to support the Church of Ireland (Anglicanism),
– Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces – (n.b. my great-grandfather on my father’s side was a sergeant in the British Army stationed in Egypt in the late 19th century. He could not become an officer due to the fact he was Irish. My father’s mother was born on Cyprus and is reported to have spoken six languages including Arabic.). —
– Catholics barred from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of Great Britain,
– Catholics could not vote,
– Catholics were excluded from the legal professions and the judiciary,
– it was illegal for Catholics to travel to the continent of Europe to be educated in Catholic schools and to return to Ireland,
– Catholics barred from entering Trinity College Dublin,
– on a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland (Anglicanism),
– Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner’s sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This law kept Catholics “land impoverished” in their own country and made them tenant farmers in the same and forcing the native populace into monoculture,
– ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of traemunire (treason), forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch’s pleasure.
– In addition to forfeiting the monarch’s protection, by said conversion, one forfeited protection under the law, no matter how atrocious any future crime against the converted,
– ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years,
– ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin,
– ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land,
– prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority’s hands’,
– “No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm’ upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offence. Any and all rewards not paid by the crown for alerting authorities of offences to be levied upon the Catholic populace within parish and county. (You had to pay for the persecution of your own religion.).
During An Gorta Mor, The Great Hunger, 1845-1852, English authorities offered a watery soup if one apostatized to Anglicanism. Over one million Irish men, women, and children chose to starve over that humiliation. (Irish are offended by/resist the term “Famine”, as there was no famine in Ireland, plenty of foodstuffs were being shipped to England and English colonies: wheat, cattle, fruits, vegetables, etc. All that was left to the Irish was the potato, which the fungus destroyed, and which the French would not eat as a staple, contributing to the French Revolution. The term genocide is not inappropriate or misused.)
The song “An Raibh Tu’ ag an gCarraig?” speaks of Penal Days when the Mass was celebrated in secret at remote gatherings. The “Carraig” was the “Mass rock” used as a meeting-place and altar. These can will still be pointed out by locals today.
According to native Irish “sean nos” singers, the words appear as a love song, “Were you at the Rock and did you see my Valentine?” (meaning either the priest or the Host). However, it was a code addressed to a disguised priest or congregant, so the enemy would not grasp the true meaning even if he spoke Irish. Death was the penalty for those caught at Mass. In Penal Times, a price of 30 pounds was offered for the head of a priest or hedge-school master, the same as for that of a wolf.
An raibh tú ag an gCarraig?
nó a’ bhfaca tú féin mó grá>nó a’ bhfaca tú gile,
finne agus scéimh na mná?
Nó a’ bhfaca tú t-úll
ba chumhra is ba mhilse bláth?
nó a’ bhfaca tú mo Vailintín
Nó a’ bhfuil sí á cloí mar táim.
Ó bhí mé ag an gCarraig,
is chonaic mé mé féin dó grá
Ó chonaic mé gile
finne agus scéimh na mná
Ó chonaic mé an t-ull
ba chumhra is ba mhilse bláth
Agus chonaic mé do Vailintín
agus ní sí á cloí mar ‘láir.
Were You at the Rock?
Or did you yourself see my love,
Or did you see a brightness,
the fairness and the beauty of the woman?
Or did you see the apple,
the sweetest and most fragrant blossom?
Or did you see my Valentine?
Is she being subdued as they are saying?
O, I was at the rock
And I myself saw your love
O, I saw a brightness,
the fairness and the beauty of the woman
O, I did see the apple
the sweetest and most fragrant blossom
and I saw your Valentine
she is not being subdued as they are saying.
At first glance, “An Raibh Tú ag an gCarraig” appears to be a series of questions and answers about a young woman, but in reality it contains a coded message. The coded message is decoded below.
Were you at the Mass?
Did you see the Virgin Mary?
Did you take communion?
And say the rosary?
Did you see the chalice?
Did you see the sacrifice of the Mass?
Did you practice the faith?
Are we being persecuted as they are saying?
I was at the Mass;
I saw the Virgin Mary
I received communion,
and said the rosary
I saw the chalice,
and saw the sacrifice of the Mass
And I practiced the faith;
we are not being subdued as they are saying.
–The Children of Lir (1914) by John Duncan, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. Please click on the image for greater detail.
If you ever come to visit Kelly and I, and you look closely…no, not at the dust and general disarray, but look closely and you may see a swan motif. These are the Children of Lir. Mara will soon be able to understand stories. We will tell her of the Children of Lir.
Long ago, in Ireland, there lived a king called Lir. He lived with his wife and four children: Fionnuala, Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. They lived in a castle in the middle of a forest. When Lir’s wife died they were all very sad. After a few years Lir got married again. He married a jealous wife called Aoife. Aoife thought that Lir loved his children more than he loved her. Aoife hated the children. Soon she thought of a plan to get rid of the children.
One summer’s day Aoife took the children to swim in a lake near the castle. The children were really happy to be playing in the water. Suddenly Aoife took out a magic wand. There was a flash of light and the children were nowhere to be seen. All there was to be seen was four beautiful swans, with their feathers as white as snow.
Aoife said, “I have put you under a spell. You will be swans for nine hundred years,” she cackled. “You will spend three hundred years in Lough Derravaragh, three hundred years in the Sea of Moyle, and three hundred years in the waters of Inish Glora,” Aoife said. She also said, “You will remain swans for nine hundred years until you hear the ring of a Christian bell.”
She went back to the castle and told Lir that his children had drowned. Lir was so sad he started crying. He rushed down to the lake and saw no children. He saw only four beautiful swans.
One of them spoke to him. It was Fionnuala who spoke to him. She told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir got very angry and turned Aoife into an ugly moth. When Lir died the children were very sad, but the curse of Aoife would not be lifted. When the time came they moved to the Sea of Moyle.
Soon the time came for their final journey. When they reached Inish Glora they were very tired. They were nine hundred years old. Early one morning they heard the sound of a Christian bell. They were so happy that they were human again. The monk (some even say it was St. Patrick himself) sprinkled holy water on them and then Fionnuala put her arms around her brothers and then the four of them fell on the ground. The monk buried them in one grave. That night he dreamed he saw four swans flying up through the clouds. He knew the children of Lir were with their mother and father.
(please click on the image for greater detail)
A statue of the Children of Lir resides in the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square in Dublin, Ireland. It symbolizes the rebirth of the Irish nation following 900 years of struggle for independence from Britain, much as the swans were “reborn” following 900 years of being cursed.
The Garden of Remembrance (An Gairdín Cuimhneacháin) is a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”.
In 1976, a contest was held to find a poem which could express the appreciation and inspiration of this struggle for freedom. The winner, “We Saw a Vision” by Liam Mac Uistin, is inscribed in the stone wall surrounding the Garden of Remembrance in Irish, English, and French.
In the darkness of despair we saw a vision,
We lit the light of hope,
And it was not extinguished,
In the desert of discouragement we saw a vision,
We planted the tree of valour,
And it blossomed
In the winter of bondage we saw a vision,
We melted the snow of lethargy,
And the river of resurrection flowed from it.
We sent our vision aswim like a swan on the river,
The vision became a reality,
Winter became summer,
Bondage became freedom,
And this we left to you as your inheritance.
O generation of freedom remember us,
The generation of the vision.
“Saoirse” is the Irish word for freedom.
Beannachtaí na Féile Padraig oraibh!!!
Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan = my hovercraft is full of eels (from a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit).
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom