Monthly Archives: May 2015

Ireland and Marriage

Marriage and Ireland have a lot of significance for me and I am saddened by the results of the recent Irish referendum on marriage. Why do I correlate Ireland and marriage?

On November 2, 1991, my wife Kimberly and I were married in a rented Lutheran church in Gaithersburg Maryland—not that we were Lutheran but our non-denominational Christian pastor was conducting church services in a high school and we needed a suitable location. The next day we set off to spend our honeymoon in the Republic of Ireland, something I had planned for even before I met my wife to be.

Back then Ireland was poor but rich in distinction, heritage and identity. Our travel arrangements were made by telephone since internet access was far into the future. I remember reserving a cheap manual transmission/manual choke compact car from an Irish “car hire” I found in the tourist board publication. The Irish man on the other end of the phone confirmed my reservation, wished me good travels and to “bring plenty of money—Ireland needs it.”

Heat was expensive and only provided during the day; we learned quickly to cover ourselves in piles of blankets and comforters at night as morning breath was simply that which was visible in the cold morning air. The movie that year was, ironically, “The Commitments” – a movie set in Dublin about an emerging soul band, a movie we had the privilege of watching in a native Cork theatre.

By so called modern “sensibilities”, Ireland was considered backward: divorce was illegal among other things. As far as I know, abortion is still illegal but I wonder how long it will be before the Irish start destroying their number one export. Perhaps it was the fabric of their orthodox spirit that made us fall in love with the country—so much so that we gave our children Irish names with middle names reflecting a town in Ireland that held significance for us during our honeymoon. We vowed to return on our twenty fifth anniversary—naive enough to believe our marriage would last that long. The box of brochures, maps, guides and souvenirs which were part of that endeavor have been sealed since returning so as not to awaken the sacred memories until the fullness of time.

Next year will be that anniversary and we have talked often about making good on those plans to go back. But I am not so sure now. Much has changed in those intervening years. For one thing, I converted to Catholicism which makes that country all the more significant to me. The Ireland of today is not the magical Ireland of 1991. The prosperity of the Celtic Tiger of the 1990’s altered their economy and probably their friendly disposition. Fiscal irresponsibility thereafter documented in the disaster tourism book Boomerang pulled them back to austerity. Divorce was legalized somewhere along the line to someone’s devilish applause. And by referendum, same sex unions has been solemnized by their government.  The Ireland that I fell in love with has broke covenant, a country once “set apart” is becoming as reprobate as the rest of Western Europe. Ireland is no longer Catholic despite what anyone thinks and I know.

St. Patrick, according to tradition, is deputed to be the final judge of the entire Irish race on the last day. As modern Ireland sinks back into the pagan slavery from which St. Patrick liberated them, I don’t know if he’s going to be all too lenient on today’s Irish. But that’s between him and them. As for me, next year, I may be bringing my money somewhere else.

Mass Tourism II

Last weekend I visited Holy Redeemer by the Sea in Kitty Hawk, NC. Once again on vacation in the Outer Banks, (Pine Island) I fulfilled my day of obligation at the nearest Catholic Church as per usual.

Whenever I go to a Catholic Church apart from my own I realize how “spoiled” I am in terms of beauty and orthodoxy. To make matters worse, I’ve become acquainted with the teachings of Duncan Stroik and his Journal of Sacred Architecture. I’ve become such a Mass and Church Architecture Snob as a consequence I may need to confess the sin of smugness.

The outside of Holy Redeemer was a large brick expanse that had a plain geometric cross and signage. So void of iconography and embellishment, it reminded me of the church in Qatar set up by the government as a concession to their devout foreign guests—a structure so void of art so as to not appeal to anyone outside the targeted faith.

Expecting the inside to reflect the beauty, tradition and birthright of millennia of Catholic art and liturgy, I was stiflingly disappointed. There was a loud din of chatter and movement about the large expansive area functionally designed to serve swarms of vacationers–so I imagined. The pews were more like bleachers with the drab design of modern minimalism oriented in a rather asymmetrical arrangement roughly pointing to the altar but not really. I could scarce see the altar which was a small structure covered in an artless cloth. I never found the tabernacle nor the red lamp that signals the real presence. I would normally genuflect but I wasn’t sure if there was anything front and center to honor.

I sat in the back nervously waiting for things to get underway on this Sunday of the Ascension. I hoped it wasn’t crowded because of the particular occasion and that many many Catholics (devout or otherwise) attend mass regularly even out here. The thought comforted me, especially as two young men in their twenties, attired in quasi-formal beach garb and a smattering of sleep-head, sat a few pews ahead of me. If these guys show up well there is hope for the future.

When the service began, the priest “broke the ice” by having everyone greet each other immediately in proximity. I was petrified; this would never happen at St. C.. The woman with her two unruly boys who sat in front turned, smiled and shook my hand. I regret not turning around and greeting those behind me but I wasn’t at all sure about this sort of thing. It caught me off guard.

The next thing was equally unorthodox but probably necessary. As part of the opening prayer, the priest asked that everyone pause silently and divest themselves of all the “baggage” they showed up with–worries, anger, vacation plans, whatever. I knew I needed to shed the smug orthodox Latin Mass weenie-ism that I came with. I dropped it off and lightened up. The miracle of Catholicism is it’s universality and the Mass, at the core, was going to be the Mass even here on the Outer Banks.

And it was. Among several peculiar things though was the “introduction” that the priest provided before each scripture reading. He framed the context and the purpose which, though outside the norm, I appreciated. Catholics really need this kind of Bible teaching since they are woefully ignorant of the Bible.

Another peculiar thing was the holding of hands during the Lord’s prayer. Touchy-feelie. And rather than kneel after receiving the Eucharist, everyone staid standing. Perhaps it was logistically easier in this crowded church than having people walk all over each other.

One thing never changes: the speed at which Catholics evacuate the building after “this mass is over”.  Sorry, no prayer to St. Michael. More like, yabba dabba doo.

On the way back I stopped by at Duck Donuts.