Recently, I received some words from A, a new commenter at this site, that pierce my heart.
Evidently, A acutely feels, as do I and many others, the tragedy of modern, globalised secular Ireland. For she or he writes:
Could ANYone have forseseen the changes wrought in the last twenty years, their swiftness and their sheer magnitude?
The aching sadness still hits me like a ton of bricks sometimes – am I living in Ireland, or in a huge Epcot Centre version of Ireland?
There used to be this country called “Ireland”… didn’t there? Did I only imagine her ?!? Was she ever really here? Where is she?
Perhaps I would feel closer to her and could see her clearly in my mind’s eye if only I could leave this strange FrankenIsland. But this madness has swept over the entire West – where else is there to go now?
Later on, A expanded by saying:
What I can’t get my head around is how easily the Irish gave away our entire heritage on a silver platter, and not with a bang but with a whimper.
Almost instantly, I found myself responding to A’s honest ‘aching sadness’ regarding a fake Disneyworld Ireland, ‘purified’ of the faith, ‘purified’ of the real. I said:
My heart goes out to you and I know not what to say, except to affirm that I believe there IS a real Ireland.
And that your pain moves my heart because it testifies to the fact that you remember her and you cherish her …
Your memory, your cherishing, your alienation from this globalised fakeness are incredibly important things … no matter how painful they are. So many are NOT alienated …
What I think will be necessary in the future is that those who love and cherish the real Ireland work at something like the construction of an Ark … an Ark to carry the soul of Ireland amidst this deluge. I hesitate to say this, though, given that I am not Irish. (Alas!)
I publish A’s comments here, because I want to ‘rescue them’ from a combox where they are far less likely to be seen. I also publish my own response as a small indication of where I hope to proceed with this blog in future.
Today, I can only clarify a little what I mean by that. But I will say this: Ireland once had a Catholic, Gaelic culture which felt natural and right to the vast majority of her citizens.
That culture has now been almost washed away in the deluge we call globalisation. (This, of course, is too simplistic: if I were writing more I would include everything from global capitalism to the New Age movement to the aftermath of Vatican II and more.)
For now, my point is that remnants of genuine Irish culture still remain and they need to be protected, cherished, guarded from the flood.
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Hence, my image of an Ark. Now, the Ark I see must seek to preserve – indeed reignite! – two different streams. I can only allude to the first stream briefly now: it is what is essential – not secondary, incidental or peripheral – to the vision that animated Patrick Pearse, Éamon de Valera and many more.
For lack of better words, I might call this the Gaelic stream. For whilst some believe the dream of Pearse and de Valera is but a chimera, a construct imposed upon the people, I trust it is far, far more.
Sure, it contained innumerable chimeras and false constructs – as any far-reaching human enterprise does. But again, it is a matter of what is essential here, and I repeat, not secondary, incidental or peripheral. All that, obviously, begs big questions. But for now, I hesitate to say more, as, again, I am not Irish and I have not yet sufficiently immersed myself in this stream.
However, the second stream, the Catholic stream I call it, I have immersed myself in for fifteen years now. I can and will speak more confidently of this. But for now, I simply turn to an American Catholic author Russell Shaw. In his book, American Catholic, Shaw speaks of recreating in America a Catholic subculture.
For me, his words about America point to what must happen in Ireland. If there cannot be an authentic Catholic culture in Ireland at this time, there can be the creation of a subculture.
Let us listen to Shaw:
It is necessary to restore – or more properly create – a healthy Catholic subculture. The old Catholic subculture, with all its strengths and limitations, was the bedrock foundation of American Catholicism until well into the twentieth century. Then, weakened by demographic shifts and cultural revolution, it was tossed aside by Catholic intellectuals and the leaders of the Church.
There is no bringing it back to life now, as some Catholic nostalgia buffs apparently would like to have happen. But the need is imperative for a new subculture … as the underpinning for American Catholicism in the twenty-first century.
When I speak of creating a new Catholic subculture, the reaction often is, ‘That isn’t realistic. What you’re talking about can’t be done.’ It’s the scepticism that is unrealistic, for that supposedly unrealistic project is, for better or for worse, already taking shape – right before the sceptic’s eyes, if they would only open their eyes, and see it.
Signs of an emerging Catholic subculture … include … proudly orthodox new Catholic colleges and universities (and a few that are not new but have taken serious steps to refurbish their Catholic identity); new, similarly orthodox religious communities; media ventures like EWTN and Catholic radio, along with a growing number of websites … periodicals and publishing houses; professional organisations … and groups and movements committed to promoting an authentic Catholic spirituality for lay women and laymen living and working in the secular world.
And Shaw also writes:
The new Catholic subculture is not a pipe dream. Already it is taking shape here and there. Many times it represents a reaction by individuals and families against what they rightly perceive as a morally destructive American secular culture. Some homeschool their children. Others have given up on television and carefully police access to the Internet in their homes. Still others have taken the radical step of moving out of big cities and their suburbs to smaller, quieter, more conservative, and less culturally threatening communities where the assaults on their eyes, ears, and morals – and those of their children – are less flagrant.
Now, there is a lot in Shaw’s words that deserve unpacking – which I hope to do in future.
For now, I return to my thoughts above, highlighting words I said to A. For I spoke as to how A remembered the real Ireland and how A loved and cherished her.
I also referred to the need to protect and guard the soul of Ireland. For this, it is sometimes necessary to go into battle. However, I would rather be for Catholic Ireland than aggressively against something else. And herein lies the trap many traditionalists fall into: they are bitterly anti, whether it is anti-modernism, anti- secularism, anti-Vatican II and so forth.
In other words: what will build this Ark is LOVE.
Those who cherish and foster love in their hearts will contribute to the construction of the Ark.
I hope there will be much more to say about this Ark in time. For now, I will just add that I hope The Gentle Traditionalist, my short upcoming book from Angelico Press, provides an example of what I mean. For the Gentle Traditionalist is not so much anti, as he is for … (Again: there are times when battle is necessary.)
As I have said here, that book exploded out of me in ten short weeks this spring. And it exploded from my heart – a heart that loves Ireland.
The book is a wide-ranging dialogue between Catholic, secular and New Age characters set in Ireland (Monaghan to be precise) and the dialogue not only concerns Catholic tradition, but it also features Pearse, de Valera and 1916 …
Finally, I will just say that Mary Kenny’s magnificent book Goodbye to Catholic Ireland is also on my mind in terms of constructing this Ark. For that reason, I am, at long last, preparing an extensive review and commentary on this very important text. (UPDATE: That review is now here.)