Ireland really is a beautiful country.
Even if you’ve never been
here, you could guess what the weather is like in the early Fall—some
light showers, mostly cloudy, temperature hovering around 60 degrees.
The weather can be harsher than this, but we’ve been blessed on this
trip, and not only with the weather. The environment here helps explain
the sturdy character and warm heartedness of the Irish people.
dealt with great hardships over the years, but have developed a
resilience and humor that helps them abide.
And since the island was
converted to the Catholic faith long ago, their national character has
been associated with the faith, still evidenced in the ancient churches
and monasteries, the names of streets and neighborhoods, and the fact
that Irish priests spread the faith all over the world in the last
couple of centuries.
The Irish character is, however, being tested these days. After years
of secularist assaults from Britain and more recently the United
States, the Church has faltered.
Even those Irish still here seem
uprooted in a way, almost anxious to distance themselves from their own
Last year Ireland became the first nation to redefine
marriage by popular vote, and its pro-life laws are under constant
attack, with some setbacks in recent years. The fact that attacks on
Ireland’s traditional Christian values are funded by foreign
“progressive” billionaires like George Soros is not lost on anyone, but
truth be told, the famous Irish fighting spirit isn’t what it used to
Except in a precious few. During these mission trips I get to meet
many people, and I am blessed to have real conversations with a few
individuals and groups who see Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, as
their exemplar. What I’m hearing is pretty consistent.
For most, it appears, the Faith slowly became merely cultural. After
forty years of indifference and inadequate catechesis, unchecked dissent
from Church teaching (particularly concerning contraception–even from
the pulpit), almost two whole generations have lost the faith. When the
corruption of the abuse scandal hit Ireland, the remnants of cultural
Catholicism were not enough to shore up people’s faith, and there has
been a mass apostasy.
If this course remains unaltered and people continue to reject God
and His commands, our friends say, a third generation will be lost,
followed by Ireland herself.
To paraphrase a conversation I had with a local leader: We are
known as the land of saints and scholars who sent missionaries around
world, but we have rejected this rich legacy, embracing instead the way
of Europe and America. And at what price? The death of our Catholic
faith, our families, and our children.
When will we learn as a Church? There is a world of difference
between a faithful and fearless Catholic who does all he can to meet the
culture where it is and bring the Faith in creative ways, and a
Catholic who thinks that where the world and the Church disagree, the
Church must change her ways in order to appear “relevant.” The former is
the life of the Church, the latter, a slow death.
We clergy and leaders of the Church must be about souls. We must
preach the love and mercy of Our Lord. This Love isn’t merely the love
of a buddy: it is the love of a Man who died for our sins in the most
brutal manner. He was relevant—and is relevant—precisely because He
could not care less about being relevant. His love was sacrificial and
complete. It is THIS love, THIS Person, that is our model.
God gives us so many models of this radical love that transforms the
world. We just had an occasion to honor Mother Teresa of Kolkata. The
Church’s newest canonized saint is an example of one who loved
fearlessly, and who was relevant not despite, but because of, her lack
of concern with conforming to the world. We also just celebrated Padre
Pio’s feast day—how relevant was he? And if he was relevant, was it
because he “got people in the door” or because he brought the Faith to
the world in a radical way?
The glory of God is not only man fully alive, as St. Irenaus so
beautifully put it. It is man whose will is so conformed to God’s that
he is ready to die for love, to sacrifice all for souls. If we priests
and our shepherds see our vocations in this way, God can use us to set
the world on fire–not only getting more people in the door, but sending
them back out to work for love and justice. They will shut down abortion
clinics and put the fear of God into politicians with a peaceful and
articulate witness to life. They will open pregnancy centers to help
women choose life, and they will preach the social and moral doctrine of
the Church in harmony with the Gospel, showing how love demands we end
the sexual revolution with a counterrevolution of love. They will show
men how unmanly it is to treat women like objects to be used, and show
women that they won’t find love in hookups.
A well-formed people can go out to the world and find creative ways
to change it, and not seek endlessly for ways to change the Church and
her doctrine to make the Church seem less offensive. When will we learn
that caving to the world brings not peace or conversion, but confusion
and even greater hostility to faithful Catholics?
Catholics who are well formed in the faith want justice and will work
hard for it. They will build solid families that do not need government
assistance, and will not seek ever more government to save them from
the consequences of their own choices. They will not let the poor and
marginalized in their own communities suffer, but will be present to
them. They will not have abortions, and will not tolerate this evil in
their communities. They will live a witness of true and natural
marriage, even with all their flaws, because they remain faithful.
will freely join and support institutions that serve the community well,
and they will be generous with whatever wealth they are given. Their
society will be more just because they first learned how to love in
their families and from priests who were unafraid to tell them the truth
and be examples of joyful, Christ-like, sacrificial love.
They will also know how to vote.
This is what a Catholic society looks like, and it is a society that
can handle and not squander its freedom. Seeing Ireland’s Catholic faith
and society collapse is heart breaking, as is seeing the government
grow into the areas that a free and faithful people used to take upon
In America we see the same thing, even to the point where
Catholics think that more of the obviously corrupt and incompetent
government is still the proper “first response” for us care for the weak
We need to wake up. I am with people in Ireland who are awake and are
fighting, but who for the most part do not feel as if they have the
Church backing them. They have a tough road, but this land has seen
saints before. While we have breath, there is always time to act for
those whose hope is in the Lord.
Thank you for supporting this mission and our partners around the world! It is an honor to serve in this battle with you all.