St. Patrick’s Legacy, Irish influence and scholarship

Patrick is the best remembered Christian missionary to Ireland. His name has come to represent the many unknown clerics who worked in Ireland before and after him. The influence of the Irish missionaries, carriers of classical learning and disseminators of theological and philosophical thought cannot be overemphasized. Vast collections of Irish manuscripts are to be found in all the great libraries across Europe. I brought a theologian friend to see the amazing Book of Kells at Trinity University recently. He wasn’t disappointed.

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This Church below is the most ancient ecclesiastical site in Ireland. St. Patrick built the first Christian Church in this land right here in 432 A.D. This is the cradle of Irish Christianity. The Church has continued to worship God through the centuries, holding fast to the Faith which Patrick taught.

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Below is a picture of friends and visitors from America outside St. Patrick’s first Church in Saul County Down;

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This prayer was on a wall inside the Church:

Go forth, traveller, in the Name which is above every name: Be of good courage: Hold fast that which is good. Repay to no man evil for evil; Strengthen the faint-hearted: Support the weak; Help the afflicted: Honour all men: Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day !

Magdalene survivor takes case against Ireland to UN’s Committe Against Torture

The word “remember” appears no fewer than 169 times in the Hebrew Bible – for memory is the constant obligation of all generations.

Today I pause to remember this particular Magdalene survivor and Irish profile in courage — Elizabeth Coppin.

Read about her amazing story below;

http://www.thejournal.ie/elizabeth-coppin-un-5010344-Feb2020/

High ways of honor for veterans in Oregon

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” Jose Narosky.

A road trip to Portland revealed that Oregon is a great state for honoring veterans. I don’t think I saw an unmarked road or highway NOT dedicated or designated to veterans.

U.S. Highway 395 is designated as a World War 1 Veterans Memorial Highway.
Highway 5 is designated as Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and Purple Heart Trail. U.S. Highway 97 and Interstate 84 is known as World War II Veterans Historic Highway and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway join up and is a way to recognize veterans from border to border. There are 70,000 miles of highway designated as Blue Star Memorial Highways in the US.

I don’t know a lot about American veterans but a little research revealed of the 331,600 veterans living in Oregon, almost 1 in 12 Oregonians, nearly 90,000 served in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan or Iraq wars. Unlike most wars in the 20th Century, the wars of today can often be overlooked or ignored by citizens at home. I was surprised to hear recently that less that 4% of the US population serves in the military.

On my coastal route from Portland to Sacramento, every next stop yielded a more beautiful vista. During a coffee stop I discovered a project by David Jay. Veterans reveal what they look like after more than 10 years of war in the Middle East. Some of these images in the link below may be uncomfortable for the viewer. Jay writes, “This project creates an opportunity to open up a dialogue about issues we are not necessarily comfortable with and also issues that we are responsible for.”

Veterans reveal what they look like after more than 10 years of war in 10 breathtaking pictures

The images caused me to reflect on our often limited definitions of health, service, leadership, courage and even attractiveness. Are we more focused on perfectionism, people pleasing, performance and the plastic ?

I’ve noticed, sometimes, in Church circles, a self-righteous service (moral arrogance) can be used as a divisive and manipulative force, as opposed to true service which unifies others. My own experience of war in Ireland and service in different spheres got me thinking; do we consider leaders less attractive, or less of a leader because they’ve had a body part hideously blown off by a bomb in the Middle East ? Also, how do we remember the past without being imprisoned by it ? That last question was stirred just a few days ago when I found myself torn between remembering an atrocity in the past and releasing forgiveness and bitterness towards the perpetrators. The day remembered was July 21, 1972–Bloody Friday. The IRA exploded 20 bombs across Belfast in 80 minutes killing nine people. Learning from the past, recovery, changes in perspective, and healing, is a process.

I read in the Wall Street Journal there is a push today to overhaul the VA which is struggling to serve military vets. According to a few veteran friends the transformation process is taking a long time. My prayer and meditation for the VA is informed by the bible verse below and my hope is that veterans everywhere would truly experience the love, affection and honor they deserve.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10).

 

Survival skills in Ireland’s violent frontier

Growing up in Northern Ireland, in the midst of so much natural beauty, I took great solace in nature and the outdoors. My playful and adventurous feet covered much ground. I wandered up and over rolling hills, and through endless green fields. Woods, apple orchards, streams, lakes and rivers captured my youthful imagination. When my mind was festering with trouble or my heart was torn, I found solace and healing among the silence of hills, mountains and fields. I was born in east Belfast but my childhood began in Craigavon, a planned settlement that was named after James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon,  who was Northern Ireland’s first prime minister. The town was planned to link Lurgan and Portadown and it was close to Lough Neagh Nature Reserve.

The dynamics of terror, however, were bubbling beneath the surface of all that beauty. A ruthless campaign by the Irish Republican Army, aimed at establishing a united Ireland free of British rule, was underway in my immediate community, as it was in all six counties of Northern Ireland and in England itself.

The long-term armed struggle, pitting the most lethal and resilient insurgency in the world against the Northern Irish and British Security Forces, created a chilling, brutal and unpredictable atmosphere. By the 1980s the IRA was a very professional outfit, adept at logistical operations, training and fundraising. On the ground my province was exposed to mortars, rocket launchers, improvised explosives and indiscriminate bombings. Various tactics were employed for either military or political reasons: execution-style murders, undercover assassination units, torture, h-blocks, hunger strikes, disappearances, vague legal guidelines, punishment beatings and the butchering of bodies.

I attended the first religiously integrated primary school in the province. I was also the daughter of a religiously integrated marriage. However, trust in the province between the Catholic and Protestant communities completely broke down as the violence escalated and murder spilled out onto the streets. Trust between the civilian population and the government and its security forces broke down as well. The British army didn’t trust the police. The police didn’t trust the British army. For many years and decades there was a state of anarchy.

As you can imagine I was scarred by the violence and still run into problems today, emotionally and psychologically. From sheer necessity I developed coping skills to overcome the challenges I faced. After years of recovery meetings and counseling I now characterize these coping skills as survival skills. They served me well while I was growing up in this harsh environment. But today in North America they can work against me and stop me from thriving in life.

One “skill” I developed was an instinctive mistrust of others. If trust was given at all it was hard earned over the long haul. It’s common in a deeply sectarian and suspicious environment like Northern Ireland to share as little information about oneself as possible, especially when answering questions. Wrong answers can lead to a beating or prison or worse. This say-nothing approach to life and relationships served me well in Northern Ireland.

However the walls it erected inside my head kept me isolated in the prison of my past. In a freer and more open sharing society like North America these walls kept others out. Sharing freely about your life may be commonplace here but it went against the cultural grain for me.

Over time I’ve slowly learned that I’m responsible for my own healing. It’s my responsibility to knock down the walls. So today, using the principle of Let Go and Let God, I don’t try to force relationships into the small boxes and safety lines that I was forced to live within. Trusting others is a gift. It can be given freely. People don’t have to earn it. Today I choose to trust others.

Another survival skill, developed to counteract the negativity of my environment, was perfectionism. There was a lot of blaming, criticism and counter accusations that ultimately led nowhere. So I became a perfectionist, always on the lookout for inconsistencies in other people’s communication, or in my surroundings. It was paralyzing. I finally learned to break it down and let it go by accepting my own imperfections.

I embraced the biblical truth that perfect love casts out fear. The tyranny of perfectionism doesn’t cast out fear; love does. Love is the best healing balm for anyone coming out of an environment where the enemy has had a field day creating hatred, suspicion, discrimination and deep sectarianism. I choose to love myself and love others. I applied the spiritual truth, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as YOURSELF.

Establishing overly rigid boundaries is another defense mechanism, a survival skill if you will. It was necessary in Northern Ireland, where boundaries, both physical and emotional, were heavily exploited. The border areas of Northern Ireland were a strategic godsend to the IRA. They could commit terrorist acts in any of the six counties up north and easily escape into the safety of the 26 counties of the Irish Republic. These actual boundaries created the emotional ones in my mind.

A rich source of healing for me, aside from nature, is music. One song in particular that speaks to my own rigidity is “Oceans,” by Hillsong. They describe in song a trusting relationship between God and man as a “trust without borders.” This concept challenged me a lot. Spiritually I know that healthy, not overly rigid boundaries brings true freedom. Now, when I feel myself putting up fences against other people as a result of the fear and lack of trust in my past, I cry out to Jesus to lead me to a place where my trust is without borders.

It takes courage to refine my heart and mind. Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities which guarantees all others.”  The root word for courage, from the Latin, cor means heart. Real power has nothing to do with force, control, status or money. Real power is the persistent courage to be at ease with the unsolved and the unfinished. There are many unresolved issues from the troubles in Northern Ireland today that still need to be challenged. There are more questions than answers in many areas. May I approach those unresolved issues of political conflict with the same kindness and courage I’m applying to the most broken parts of myself. May I have the courage to surrender the most broken parts of myself with open hands to the living God who restores and redeems everything and place in his perfect timing.