Archive for the ‘St. Patrick’sDay’ Category

How The Irish Catholics Evolved



 In 1155, to curb ” ecclesiastical” corruption, authorization was given to King Henry II to invade Ireland, in the form of a Papal bull from Pope Adrian IV. Henry I had died in 1135. The deed was done in 1169, upon authority based a lot on the remnants of a forged Roman imperial decree. As the English began their rule in Ireland.

 It had been out of the history of the times of Constantine the Great which had determined the place of the Church of Rome in western religion. It is the history of Henry VIII that left the Irish under a dominant culture. In his campaign against Catholicism, Henry VIII seized church lands, raided monasteries, and in the process, Henry’s henchmen disturbed and destroyed the burial places of the monarchs who preceded him. Henry VIII likely contributed to the destruction of the tomb of his namesake Henry I.  

 Modern historians attempt to determine whether Christian sources exaggerated the scope of the Diocletianic persecution of Christians during the times just before Constantine.  It is written of the persecutors, Galerius and Diocletian were avid, while Constantius had been unenthusiastic. Constantius was the father of Constantine the Great. Later edicts for persecution, including the calls for universal sacrifice, were not applied in Constantius’ domain. In 303, it was Diocletian who had rescinded the legal rights of Christians, demanding compliance with traditional Roman religion.

 Roman imperial decrees, not unlike papal bulls.  The emperor in those days was concerned with the spiritual life of his people.  Constantine the Great was the son of Flavius Valerius Julius Constantius (later known as Constantius Chlorus) and and woman later canonized by the Church of Rome as Saint Helena from a common law marriage. After divorcing Helena some time before 289 (if he never married her, why the divorce?), Flavius Valerius Julius Constantius (later known as Constantius Chlorus) married Flavia Maximiana Theodora (known as Theodora) in order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, per the analysis. Theodora and Constantius had six children: Constantius Chlorus carried in the Tetrarchy (which lasted until 313) the title adopted from antiquity of Caessar, as an officer in the Roman army, and as part of the Emperor Aurelian’s imperial bodyguard.

 A prominent member of the court of Diocletian, Constantine had fought for Diocletian and Galerius in Asia. By late 305, he had become a tribune of the first order. Having been schooled in the East under some Christian influence, Constantine, on taking the imperial office in 306, restored full legal equality and returned confiscated property to Christians. Internecine conflict had eliminated most of the claimants to Roman power leaving colleague and rival Constantine the Great and Licinius I. Like the Church of Rome itself, Constantine was still largely untried, with questions about his legitimacy, from Helena’s cohabitation, recognized in fact but not in law, with his father. Constantine gave his favorite half-sister Flavia Julia Constantia (one of six chilren of Theodora and Constantius) in marriage to his co-emperor, Licinius.

 In the times before Constantine the Great, the Roman Empire was on the edge of extinction, with the Empire split into three competing states, as the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression. The Crisis of the Third Century, before Constantine’s rule, had  resulted in such profound changes in the Empire’s institutions, society, economic life and, eventually, religion. 

 Henry VIII upset the burial places of his namesake, putting the Irish under a dominant culture. As the son of William the Conqueror, Henry I had reigned for nearly 30 years, from 1106 to 1135. Although he crowned himself king of England in 1100, Henry’s reign was disputed by his older brother Robert, who had been away fighting the Ottoman Turks in the Crusades. Initially able to buy Robert off, Henry later came into conflict with Robert again that was resolved in 1106 as Henry’s army captured Robert in battle, imprisoning him for life. Henry spent much of his time away from England, often frequenting Normandy. In order to rule in his absence, he created a bureaucracy that would efficiently govern and run the affairs of state, the most important duty of which was to collect taxes. Following the death of his son, he was left with only one legitimate heir, his daughter Maud. When Henry died in 1135, his daughter Maud’s rule was rejected by the English nobility and in the succession crisis, of people of low birth, civil war ensued through 1141.

 And so in 1155, Laudabiliter, to curb ” ecclesiastical” corruption (had this corruption been the result of the civil war?). Authorization was given to King Henry II to invade Ireland, in the form of this Papal bull allegedly by Constantine’s power, from Pope Adrian IV. The deed was done in 1169. The authority was based a lot on the remnants of a forged Roman imperial decree, allegedly dating back to Constantine the Great. As the English began their rule in Ireland, long before the Protestant Ascendancy.

 After all, Saint Patrick was a Brit from the Scottish Highlands born about 380 A.D. – not long after Constantine the Great – kidnapped at a young age, taken prisoner in 403 AD and held in captivity in Ireland, for six years. Learning a new language. An escape as a stow-away, after a 3-day journey, he was back to Britain. Then returning to this land years later as a priest. And with his knowledge of the language, changing the landscape where actually there were no snakes, if there ever had been? So you had cause to trust both British leaders and leaders in Rome.

 Island people, increasingly entangled in worldly matters, over the conflict of public and private lives: after almost four centuries, following the declaration of the independence of the Church of England from papal supremacy and rejection of the authority of Rome, a new basis for the English monarch’s legitimate claim to the rule of Ireland was found in the Crown of Ireland Act 1542. Like some updated version of Great Vowel Shift in the pronunciation of the English language in England after 1350, after the writing of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Protestant minority remained socially, politically, and economically dominant through the officially established religion or the established church. Among the Canterbury pilgrims, many began to question the authority of the established Church, perhaps following Henry VIII’s lead. Within the framework of pilgrims on a pilgrimage, written during a turbulent time in English history, with the Catholic Church in the midst of the schism that kingdoms regularly went through over the issue of inheritance, how did the pardoner,in the Canterbury Tales, view his own work? Or a king?

 There was the perceived threat to the English by the rest of the world, over the issue of Supremacy. In the world of Protestant Reformation, the Irish people were the lamb. Europe’s Catholic monarchs and the Papacy remained committed in considering Ireland a feudal fief of the Papacy, to be granted to any Catholic sovereign who managed to secure the island Kingdom from the control of its Protestant monarchs.

 And so the stories of the Spanish Armada. The discovery of the New World. The Inquisition, which never really ended. And still the Ottoman Turks in the east. Over the course of the next two centuries, the Papacy and Europe’s Catholic rulers continued to recognize Ireland as a Kingdom in its own right, while asserting the Protestant monarchy as illegitimate. Catholic Europe simultaneously would incite Catholic rebels in the island, as a means of recovering Ireland from Protestant to a Catholic sovereignty.

 The papal bull.  The last Catholic inspired invasion of England ended in failure during the Jacobite rebellion. In 1755, the Holy See recognized British sovereignty over Ireland.  Subsequent treaties with Catholic sovereigns, following British global victories during the remainder of the 18th century, ended future Catholic sovereign incitements. Until the Irish Rebellion of 1798 with Wolfe Tone. Massacres of captured rebels after almost every British victory in the rising, some on a large scale as at Carlow, New Ross, Ballinamuck and Killala, were noted. And from that point on, the native population was directed –inwardly — to their very own quest for independence. And so the celebration of this inward feast, in the wearing of the green.

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Irish Spirits


In search of an Irish spirit. The universal welcoming atmosphere of a Celtic bar, throughout the world. In search of the visible aquifers, above sea level. Places which I have found in Amsterdam, Warsaw, and Gdansk.

That you might have what I have. The philanthropy of Celtic spirit. In a secular bar last night with an Irish name. Or the secular bar last night with an Irish name.

Morticians and poets…connecting what, on the surface, seems to be the unconnected. The poetry of a mortician connecting the dead to the living. When time becomes the factor in the search for the divine. God-like. Looking for the Holy Grail but running out of time. When clocks added to the stress.

Celtic spirits. When you somehow pour yourself into the kids. We give you thanks, for some attachment to belief, Saint Patrick. To believe to some degree, about a few things about the world. About life and death and birthrights –some kind of faith, with loyalty. After so many years under a dominant culture. With the dominant culture so visible. The ones which kept peasants in debt, and stole a language. The foreigner concepts, which had oppressed peasants each day. For so long.


Philanthropy—that you might have what I have. When I was in the process of giving away a book. About what seemed a normal way of life . The movement in the story. From a time so long ago. Before the mysterious disappearance.

Tradition: You had to be looking at what it was which you were about to give away. To appreciate the movement in the story.

Having to resume a life, as if nothing had happened. All the ongoing movement in the story. Over the inheritance. The land was still here. The children grown. With a growing numbness. To the inheritance. And working for a losing cause. Cognitively impaired. With anger.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I had. What seemed a normal way of life. Like in the life of Cain and Able.

Having to resume a life, as if nothing had happened. After an injustice. Maybe after you have been forced to move. By the war. Or a sinking economy, with rising prices. Or by famine. Or just because your parents had shared one apple. And witnessing all of the truth which comes out of anger. With a demand for custody. Ask Eve. After she ate the apple. About the developing anger of her son, Cain. With his certain lack of self-worth which had developed. Working for a losing cause. A child of divorce asking about this all-loving God, with some doubts about the God of his father and of his mother. Over issues of fairness. And discrimination.

The Cain question: How can God not love my mother? Even if she had been, in an updated story, divorced? A child, wondering, how could such great parents be kicked out of the garden? For just eating the apple? And why should they lose custody rights? To the garden. Over a simple apple.

The Cain question: Waiting, to know more. About custody rights to God? On Ash Wednesday. Numb, at this point, about inheriting the earth. With an indifference in such a fast paced world. So, ‘Adios.’ To God. To the God of Adam and the God of Eve.

Wanting your own kids or grandkids to think. About their past. And the custody rights. To slowly think and understand. This creation. About all the problems in life. When both the giver and the recipient slowly thought about the great gifts.

Ashes. When you had to dispose of the ashes. What to do with the ashes? When one day you died. And the old-time costs of funerals were like the cost of health care. Just so prohibitive.

The old adage: Get lots when you are young. The anger over having been placed in a container of ashes, instead of in the ground. With all the expense of disposal.

The Nora Lynch story, by Thomas Lynch. To find me in his story. About ashes. What to do with our ashes. Mobile people wondering what to do with our ashes. In a society that spent so much to have mobility.

This western identity was so much about the mobility. Movement from one place. From home. With home security. With all the systems of home security and oil to keep warm. Oil to move around. Laws. Traffic regulations. Young people trafficked. Passports. Visas. Going to school. Junior year abroad. Going to work. Laws, to address the movement. The demand for mobility, and ‘destination’ weddings. With some sort of immigration policy. And caller ID.

Love. Coming home. Living with awareness. Nomads, with some degree of awareness, about all the movement. Awareness about how to position your feet. When you were not particularly aggressive about your personal life. But your wife was. About going places. About escapes.

The bonds which came out of stories. Using words to try to move humanity forward. Using words to convey the most important parts about being alive. Or, maybe Facebook. About true intimacy. Before people forgot.

Living with awareness. And how to position your feet. And learning how softly to hold the club. When a tradition was passed down to you, and it was your turn. But you messed up the mechanics, and due to a slice one day or a hook the other, you just were out of control of your intentions. And your short game. Oy-vey. Mobility. Distance. Speed. Maintenance. Having to be conscious about how close to keep the hands to the heart. The speed of understanding, when you were moving so fast, out of control. Compared to stationary people. The anger over having been placed in Group 2. As society distinguished the mobile from the immobile. Having been thought to be mobile, based upon your heritage. The anger at having been placed in Group 2, as immobile. With a dimming awareness —due to genetics, philosophy, or the environment. Which could not be my fault.

Escapism. Deep rooted self destructive behavior. The speed of anger. That never left. Below the surface. Lingering anger. The speed of understanding about the underlying anger. Over history. The self destruct in nature, that brings us to die each season. And then the ashes. With a slow speed in understanding. As your field lies fallow. Absorbing things, about the world. And the movement from one place. A lot like dust.

So, remember guys, that thou art dust.

The slow speed of understanding. About what to do with the ashes? Move to Phoenix? As a child of divorce. The anger over having been placed in this group. Separate. With pain. Because of some problems at home. With life. That had involved no choice by the kids.

Nomads. When you came from this tradition of nomads. Ah, with all the mysterious disappearance. Of nomads. With all the various degrees of understanding of God. But you should give thanks for all which you had. And for all the days of your life. And then start giving alms. To those who never had what you had. With various degrees of understanding, with the missing bonds, over the distance, which had never developed in relationship.

Love and mortality. Philanthropy. Passing it on, after your fertility was spent. Intimate sex and fertility, in such an unfair world. To somehow move a people in exile. Somewhere. The movement in the story. What had just happened here? Outside the garden. In this life? With all the need for numbers.

When you saw someone die. Or when you saw someone live. Demonstrating passion. To somehow demonstrate passion. Over the inheritance. The inconvenience in bad weather to demonstrate passion. Or in just bad times. Over a pregnancy. Or over the tradition. With the resources depleted. Money spent. And the growing pain. In a tradition.

Philanthropy—that you might have what I have. The slow speed of absorbing things, about the world as your field lies fallow. To drag a body out. To accept death. To start all over. In weakness to continue to accept yourself as you are. To finally feel moved. And to keep moving.

That you might have, that you could have, what I have. With the wise sincerity in content, Abraham and philanthropy. When on the surface Isaac seemed so undeserving. Like I was. Reading or hearing the stories. Of Abraham and philanthropy. That you might have what I have.

When you were moved by stories. Reading or hearing or witnessing one. About real life, freshly pressed. When I was in the process of giving one life away. A life that I never had been deserving of.

Sacrifice. For the slow. And all of this knowledge. And belief. And love. Based upon hereditary, or environment. The slow speed of trying to move humanity forward. In institutions. Or in other vehicles. Learning how softly to hold. When I was in the process of giving this gift away.

The slow speed of understanding. For nomads. When you were born into all of this. When you came from this tradition. Seeking, taking, sanctuary. With so many people indifferent, in good times. In such a mobile world. And seeing the passions become inflamed. Again. Over giving alms.

Remember man, that thou art dust.

So, with your slow speed of understanding, remember that thou art dust. Remember everyone, so that you might have what I have. And that you might keep moving. In alms-giving.

That you might have what I have. When you were moved to give alms. After reading or hearing the stories. About a real way of life. In real life. After reading or hearing the stories or witnessing one. When on the surface we were all so undeserving.

That you might have, that you could have, what I have. Life. From this God who was always involved in life issues. Giving life. Sustaining life. All the various varieties of life which, on the surface, seemed to be a losing cause.

And unto dust thou shall return.


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On Irish Politics and Irish Religion

The Irish Times reported on December 8, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI had invited Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to a meeting on December 11th to discuss “the painful situation” in the Catholic Church in Ireland, per confirmation by a Vatican official. The papal nuncio to Ireland will attend along with senior Vatican Curia figures with specific competence in this area,” according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

The Irish Times on December 4, 2009 reported that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said it was discourteous that Papal Nuncio in Ireland did not respond to the two letters sent to him by the Murphy commission in February 2007 and earlier in 2009. The previous reluctance of the Papal Nuncio in Ireland to contribute to the report, and then the delay of one week before finally commenting upon findings of the Murphy commission have led to calls for expulsion of the Papal Nuncio in Ireland. Fine Gael leader in the House, Frances Fitzgerald, said the report of the Murphy commission should mark a defining moment in the relations between church and State. The Papal Nuncio in Ireland has denied ’showing contempt’ for the State institutions by refusing to respond to requests from the Murphy commission for information, according to Ivana Bacik (Labor).

The Vatican, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, responded to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, indicating that the communication was not made through the proper channel, he added. In making their requests, the Murphy commission undoubtedly established that it was the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who took control of issues of sexual abuse by priests sometime around 2001. So the Irish political parties were now in a row over why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not reply.

Replying to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, the Vatican’s view was, as the commission had been established under government authority through the Department of Justice, such communication should be routed through diplomatic channels and in accordance with international customs, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said. The Holy See’s approach was, according to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, consistent with international law where dealings between states should be conducted via the diplomatic channel unless other arrangements were made by mutual consent. He said that it was not “unreasonable to assume the Holy See was open to responding to a further approach through diplomatic channels” to the Murphy commission investigating clerical child sex abuse in Dublin, according to the Irish Times.

Labor leader Eamon Gilmore said that the reply to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny by Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed that senior figures in the Catholic Church had failed to grasp the urgency of what was at stake, according to the Irish Times.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked how it was there was no response from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to the response from the Vatican that contact had not been made through the correct channel.

Responding to Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin’s expression of “deep disappointment” at the lack of a response by the pope to the Dublin diocesan report, sources inside the Vatican said until the Holy See received a formal complaint from the Government via its diplomatic mission in Rome, a Vatican response would be “inappropriate”.

The Irish Times reported on December 8, 2009 that Vatican insiders say Friday’s meeting is a direct intervention from the Holy See, called by Pope Benedict XVI. The sources reportedly state that the pope will argue the Irish clerical sex-abuse crisis has gone on far too long and will urge Irish church leaders to find a definitive exit from the crisis. Hmmmmmm.

In a related story, The Irish Times reported on December 8, 2009 that in 1991 Father Kevin Hegarty was appointed editor of the Irish Bishops’ Conference-sponsored magazine Intercom, published under the aegis of the Bishops’ Commission on Communications. In its December 1993 issue an article titled “Twenty Questions for the Bishops” challenged their handling of clerical child sex abuse. “Will they eschew silence as the preferred legal and moral strategy in the face of future allegations?” it asked.

In 1993, the Irish bishops criticized an Intercom article on women priests published in the magazine and written by the current Irish President Mary McAleese (then a university professor).

In 1994, Father Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom after publishing an article challenging the bishops’ handling of clerical child sex abuse. In March 1994 auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh, who was investigated by the Murphy commission, was appointed to survey the Bishops’ Conference on their attitude to Intercom. In July 1994 Father Hegarty was appointed full-time curate at Shanaghy in west Mayo. “In the circumstances I felt I had no choice but to let go of Intercom,” he said.

In a January 1995 letter to the Irish Times, Mary McAleese (then a university professor) wrote that “what is truly depressing about this episode, though, is the contrast between the energy and determination which went into sorting out a perceived problem with the editorial tone of Intercom , and the sheer breathtaking ineptitude of church handling of matters relating to child abuse by clergy….It is truly ironic that Father Kevin Hegarty raised the issue openly inIntercom” long before the Father Brendan Smyth affair, and in so doing incurred the wrath of those so anxious now to reassure us of their clean hands and bona fides in this squalid business.”

The Irish Times on December 8, 2009 reports that Father Hegarty said the Murphy report “showed that church leaders placed most premium on loyalty, regardless of the truth.” He said. “We live in a dysfunctional church, which happens when deafness becomes deadly,” he said. The bishops named in the Murphy report include the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, the Bishop of Galway, two Dublin auxiliary bishops, and Bishop of Limerick. Monsignor Dolan, the vice chancellor in Dublin from 1980 to 1997, is also named; he became chancellor in 1997.

Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect for Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is hard to fathom how the pope might whitewash this situation involving both church and state over which he had assumed personal control for at least the past 8 years. In a nation that understood the Curia was operating both as a sovereign state with diplomatic ties as well as in the spiritual domain. Would this pope actually address concerns that the Papal nuncio was ’showing contempt’ for the State institutions? In Ireland.

Under orders from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, American Jesuit Thomas Reese resigned on May 6, 2005 as editor of the Catholic magazine America because he had published articles critical of church positions, several Catholic officials in the United States told the New York Times. The order to dismiss the editor of America magazine was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in mid-March when the Vatican office of doctrinal enforcement was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Catholic officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. (Some have suggested it was the American bishops who got Father Reese removed, a story much like Father Kevin Hegarty’s dismissal.) Soon after Father Reese’s dismissal, Pope John Paul II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI. His new job duties included a job description of infallibility on both matters of faith and morals.

At one point it will be nice to see Pope Benedict’s own Transfiguration. Beyond the days of the ongoing cover up, when the immoral were involved in a great cover up. And too many people of faith lost their faith in bishops around the world, with the cover up of crimes. And too many Catholics had lost faith in the bishops around the world whose appointments had been solely based upon political litmus tests of who was conservative or liberal. Cardinal Ratzinger was on record, reported in America in the days of Rev. Thomas Reese, as saying that perhaps it was time to prune back this church. Maybe the pruning might finally start with a few Irish bishops. And then a progression to include a few other bishops involved in the cover up who had elected Cardinal Ratzinger pope. Bernard Cardinal Law for one. Of course in the culture of Germany since the days of Adolph Hitler, there had never been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Life had just gone on.

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Memorial Day. Remembering the past. The great tradition. Amidst all this change.

Amidst the change. Searching for God. And searching for love. Amidst all the change.

Was there honesty in my prayer? In my words? Which reflected my actions? Amidst the change in equity. In my house. The changing valuations. The fluctuating currency value.

About that sanctity of marriage. How many times?
There were commissions involved with security. And exchange.

Movies. The Russian Revolution. History was not an illusion. Nor was God.

Real fear. As an export.

The currency. Amidst the change in equity. In my house. The changing valuations. The fluctuating currency value.

Equity markets. Falling equity in my home. When everyone felt secure with equity. It was as if equity was the purpose of life.

Memorial Day. Remembering the past. The great tradition. Amidst all this change.

Beliefs. Opinions. Memorial Day. Prayer.

History was not an illusion. Nor was God. Slavery. Sex. Gentleness. That Filipino guy the other night. That guy, wanting to have sex. Just sex. The nightclubs were filled with people like this. Without concern with equity in a relationship. Without concern for real love.

How to teach the souls of the young? Graciousness. Teaching the “gentle” part of “gentlemen.”

Choice. The choice beyond just having sex with someone in a relationship. The choice to marry someone.

As to those outward signs: you had to be looking. A lot of people passed them by without a clue as to what was going on.

Some got lost in the search and gave up.

Learning the kind of God to believe in through religious education.

Was there honesty in my prayer? In my words?

Opinions? Or beliefs? Communal beliefs.

The Ascension Gospel: Why are you standing there? Go! Spread the news of God’s love.

Communal beliefs in action were more than just opinions.

Irish Identity

For 13 years I attended Catholic schools in the United States, followed with attendance for four years at a Jesuit university. It was only when I finished my schooling and traveled to Ireland that I realized for the first time, based upon names, most of these friends who were Catholic, most all of my friends, are Irish Catholic. The origins of the names had been a bit invisible but any litany of these family names on my Christmas card list would make another grand Celtic song.

So of this Irish Catholic identity, is identity only an idea? Until the past generation, most European countries have been identified by its religion or its music. Whatever the denomination, worship and music were used to unite a people, to energize them to work for others. Music, worship, language and STORY could change the shape of the world and my shape within it. Identity was how I saw what I liked, and what I wanted to look like.

In 2008, I was given a book called Vanishing Ireland. The writer’s theme was that the Celtic Tiger had eroded a way of life. Or something had. It was just the way the world was becoming. There was a concern in Europe about a vanishing world. In the days of the European Union. Europeans were struggling to live in a secular world with their Christian past. Vanishing Ireland was not a book so much about vanishing Catholics in Ireland as a vanishing way of life. The Catholics were still there. But the meaning and purpose of a Catholic identity in the vanishing world of Europe Union was a concern, at least to clerical leaders. (Before the revelations of the Murphy Commission, et al.)

Why all the concern over the loss of identity? My interpretation of the world depended upon whom I had come across, of that something which seemed to build over the years, this spirit within me.

In 1993, I had stayed at a bed & breakfast in Kilkenny sixteen years after my first trip. The place was operated by a woman in her seventies. Mrs. Hefferan was long-time separated. And Ireland at the time was in the midst of an election campaign whether divorce should be legally recognized in her country. In the course of a breakfast on a Sunday morning, Mrs. Hefferan revealed what was special about Kilkenny. It was her stories about the man she married. It had not been an unhappy experience for her. She just explained what happened on an island — to an American and a French woman over tea — whether to men or to dogs. After years of breeding, she felt, the men and the Irish setters inevitably just got high strung. But still Irish men and Irish setters were appreciated the world over for their companionship.

Fifteen years later — after that holiday — a pub a day is closed in Ireland. For good. The world was changing. Was there a loss of community everywhere? So what really was vanishing? As people went their separate ways?

Laura McKenzie has dedicated her life to traditional Celtic music. It had taken years to develop. And then for the next generation to learn. “I was drawn to the culture that had produced it.” This American woman learned that it was not just the notes on paper that the music was about. The mystery was in the formation process like the Cliffs of Moher, or of playing music with an older man from Sligo. Celtic music taught that when someone was gone, their life in memory became more holy. That was identity.

Civilization was a collection of cultures and the things that drew people to the culture. To produce it, took years. It took years to learn any culture. And then it was passed along. Even in the middle of no where. That was part of the draw to this culture, which certainly involved a religious, a family dimension. Even to the those caught up in exile from a diaspora.

So what did all of this means because of St. Patrick? What was the meaning and purpose of a scattering Irish Catholic identity, fought over as a sectarian battle for too much of the twentieth century, even to the scatter-brained wild rovers?

Born about 350 years after Jesus of Nazareth died. Kidnapped at a young age. This young man from the Scottish Highlands taken prisoner in 403 AD and held in captivity. For six years. Learning a new language. An escape as a stow away. A 3-day journey back to Britain.

Returning to this land years later as a priest. And with his knowledge of the language, changing the landscape where actually there were no snakes. Had there ever been?

Baptized with names that we are not anonymous. Those Irish names so that we no longer are anonymous. History and its affect on me. I had traveled to Ireland twice. In 1994 I visited the town, the homestead that still carried the family name. This fertile land was in the middle of nowhere.

Long with conflict amongst the baptized and the unbaptized, between Protestants and Catholics, over issues of human power, music if not worship was used to unite a people, to energize them to work, from this thing called identity. For others. In the mainstream, to arrive at consensus. Over who we say we are, over who we actually are, and over who God wants us to be. Out of the middle of nowhere.

Visible, on March 17th. This has turned out to be a day not so much about shared belief any more, as shared blood. Or just a shared drink. When God really trumps nationhood. Until commercialized in the secular world. Because of St. Patrick, my family has no longer been sinning anonymously, but with an identity. Drawn era after era to other Irish people, and having a fine time. With a name that generation after generation has kept trying. Bonded by the stories.

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