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.