Rule Britannia

Saturday, August 21, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

Something for the weekend.  Rule Britannia.  I grew up with a bit of a love-hate relationship with Great Britain and her now vanished Empire. On my father’s side the family had been in America since before the Revolution, except for the Cherokees who had been here I assume for 30,000 years, and the family could have cared less about Great Britain one way or the other.  On my mother’s side however things were different and more complex.  My mother, an immigrant who became a naturalized citizen, was proud Newfoundlander Irish.  Her Great-Grandfather, who regarded pews and kneelers as perfidious Protestant innovations and would kneel on bare stone floors into his eighties in the back of  the church he attended during Mass, had come to Newfoundland from Ireland and kept alive in my Mom a memory of Ireland.  She played in our home as I was growing up all the old Irish rebel songs, and part of the heritage I imbibed did not stint on remembering the grievances of the Irish against the English.  On the other hand, my Mom loved Queen Elizabeth II and from my Mom I developed a life long interest in British history and politics.  My Great-Uncle Bill on my mother’s side served in the infantry in the Royal Army from 1939-1945 joining up, he said, “Because someone has to teach the Limies how to fight!’

Therefore on this blog I happily play both the Irish rebel songs and an occasional salute to the land of the Queen my sainted mother loved.  In regard to the vanished Empire, I am fully cognizant of the wrongs that were committed by it, but I believe perhaps this section from The Life of Brian might be applied to the British, as well as the Roman, Empire, in some ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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In Memoriam: Michael Collins

Friday, August 20, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

My friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia has a superb tribute to Michael Collins, on the anniversary of his death, the most talented soldier and statesman of Ireland of the last century.  Go here to read it.

Prior posts on Michael Collins:

1.  Michael Collins

2.  The Easter Rising of 1916 AD


Saint Patrick, The Darkness and The Dawn

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

G. K. Chesterton

With all the fun and frivolity that has become associated with Saint Patrick’s Day, we lose sight of the man and of the saint.  Saint Patrick was a pivotal figure, not only in the history of Ireland, but also in the history of Western Europe and in the history of the Catholic Church.  He is also very much a saint for our time.

The Fifth Century, the time of Saint Patrick, was a time of disaster for both the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church.  Barbarian invasions rent and destroyed the Empire in Western Europe and Africa, and the Barbarians, when they were not pagan, were adherents of the Arian heresy.  The Church had spent three centuries spreading throughout the Empire and had eventually become the faith of the Empire.  Now all of that painful progress seemed undone as the Empire died and the Church seemed mortally wounded.  In Patrick’s native Britain, by the end of his life, pagan Germanic hordes had invaded and were well on their way to destroying the Faith throughout most of that island.  The lights of faith and learning seemed to be going out forever.

In this chaotic darkness, Patrick, a man on fire with the love of Christ, was commissioned by Pope Celestine I to erect the Cross in a pagan land.  In the face of defeat and despair, the Church went on the offensive.  The Pope had already sent Saint Palladius in 431 to Ireland as the first bishop of Ireland, but the emerald isle remained overwhelmingly pagan.  Saint Patrick would be the second bishop of Ireland, as he embarked upon a lifelong mission to every Irish man, woman and child who could hear his voice.  Tireless and fearless, he endured captivity no fewer than 12 times as he preached the Gospel throughout Ireland.  Wherever he went he established churches and ordained priests.  The results of his efforts Saint Patrick summed up in his Confession:

I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: ‘To you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, “Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.”’ And again: ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.’

Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Collins

Saturday, March 13, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

Something for the weekend.  Michael Collins sung by the Wolfe Tones.  Collins was the most talented Irish statesman and soldier of the last century.  He was also a man of exceptional courage as he demonstrated when he signed the Anglo-Irish treaty, realizing that this was the best deal that could be gotten from the British.  “I have signed my own death warrant” was his prophetic utterance  when he signed the treaty.  Collins was killed in the subsequent utterly futile Irish civil war that errupted and died at 31 on August 22, 1922, proving once again that the worst enemy of the Irish often tend to be the Irish.

In the negotiations with the British Michael Collins and Winston Churchill became acquainted and found, probably to their mutual surprise, that they respected each other. 

Just before his death Collins sent this message, “Tell Winston we could never have done it without him.”

In 1929 Churchill wrote of Collins, “Successor to a sinister inheritance, reared among fierce conditions and moving through ferocious times, he supplied those qualities of action and personality without which the foundation of Irish nationhood would not have been re-established.” Read the rest of this entry »


Great Jesuits 3: Dynamo From Ireland

Monday, November 9, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

Father John McElroy, S. J.

Number 3 of my series on great Jesuits of American history.

A year before the colonies won their fight for independence, John McElroy first saw the light of day in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh, Ireland on May 11,1782.  At this time English imposed penal laws meant that Irish Catholics were treated like helots in their own land.  The great Edmund Burke described the penal laws well:

“For I must do it justice;  it was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts.   It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

As a result of these laws McElroy could receive little education in Ireland.  Ambition and a thirst for knowledge caused him, like many Irish Catholics before and since, to emigrate to the US, landing on our shores in 1803.  He became a bookkeeper at Georgetown College, studying Latin in his off hours.  In 1806 he joined the Jesuits as a lay brother, but his intelligence and his industry quickly marked him down to his Jesuit superiors as a candidate for the priesthood.  Ordained in 1817 , for several years he served at Trinity Church in Georgetown, until being transferred to Frederick, Maryland, where, during the next twenty-three years, with the boundless energy which was his hallmark,  he built Saint John’s Church, a college, an orphan’s asylum, and the first free schools in Frederick.  He was then transferred back to Trinity in Georgetown where he remained for a year until the Mexican War began.

Read the rest of this entry »