I write this week from the Emerald Isle, where I’m on a mission with Dr. Brian Clowes, HLI’s Director of Education and Research, and Patrick McCrystal, Director of HLI Ireland. Patrick entitled our four-day series of presentations on the road “Be Not Afraid, Catholic Ireland,” as ours is a mission of hope in a land that has fallen victim to the seductions of the Culture of Death.
Our goal is twofold: First, to expose the lies that create an illusion of “tolerance” and “progress” around abortion and the redefinition of marriage, and second, to call Catholic Ireland back to her roots and the love and duties that grow from our beloved Faith. Often called “the land of the saints,” Ireland has produced far too many holy men and women to list in this article – men and women who have impacted Ireland’s rich history and that of the universal Church.
In the midst of a rapidly secularizing culture emboldened by its recent “wins” – the legalization of same-sex unions and abortion in so-called “exceptional cases” – we are through education, training, and encouragement calling the faithful to Be Not Afraid. The truth about Life and Family is non-negotiable, and no matter what is being promoted – demanded – by the Culture of Death, this truth must be proclaimed. There is no option for the disciples of Jesus.
In the year 433, Saint Patrick traveled to the Hill of Slane in County Meath in hopes of bringing souls to Christ in pagan Ireland. On the eve of Easter, which coincided with the Druid feast of Bealtine (Beal’s Fire) and the Spring Equinox, St. Patrick lit a bonfire on the hill. As trivial as this may seem today, it was in fact a revolutionary act: it was equivalent to declaring war on the Druids and their pagan beliefs and also on the King of Ireland. There was a law that no fire could be lit in the vicinity to compete with those of the festival of Bealtine, which blazed at the Royal seat of power on the nearby the Hill of Tara. That small act of starting a fire was a turning point in the history of Tara and all Ireland, changing the spiritual landscape of Ireland forever.
God used St. Patrick’s courageous and defiant act to grow Christianity in this pagan land. His heroic stance in opposition to the powers of his day is an example of what we – not only in Ireland but in every nation where life, faith and family are under attack – must do. In the face of an aggressive and intolerant secularism set on silencing its opponents through intimidation, and even brute force, we cannot cower to its pressure. We must rise to the challenge at hand as did our beloved St. Patrick. This struggle is indeed what we were created for, as Pope Leo the XIII highlights in his letter On Christians as Citizens: “Christians are, moreover, born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God aiding, the triumph: ‘Have Confidence; I have overcome the world.’” (Sapientiae Christianae n. 14)
During our visits in Limavady, Monaghan, Limerick, and Dublin, I met many courageous disciples unashamed of their faith, determined not to be bullied into silence concerning the truth about life and family. They know what the proponents of the Culture of Death are proposing: the worship of the secular gospel and its catch phrase – tolerance. In the name of tolerance, our opponents demand concession upon concession, and if we comply it only shows that we stand for nothing. They are clear and uncompromising – how do we serve God by being any less so?
The current plague affecting Ireland did not suddenly appear overnight; it has been spreading for some time. Due to a lack of proper catechesis and formation, I have been told by many during our visit, Catholics are ill-prepared to confront the challenge of a confident and aggressive secularism. As we have proclaimed in our four day Pro-Life Activist Training in Dublin and in our Be Not Afraid mission, Catholic Ireland must rekindle within its heart a zeal for God and His law. Ignorance, indifference, complacency, fear, and anxiety are useless. What is needed is a firm understanding of the faith, proclaimed with trust, courage, zeal, fervor, and determination. The Catholic Church in Ireland has a vital role to play in this battle, and holds within herself the very remedy that can restore and transform this land of the saints. What is needed is for the local Church to mobilize and authentically re-evangelize its people – it is time to light a fire, the fire of truth and faith!
This truth does not only apply to Ireland, it applies to each of us in every land. We have a duty and responsibility. Our Lord tells us, just as he told Jeremiah: “Do not say I am only a youth; for to all whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
After one of our presentations, a gentleman in his seventies thanked me for my presentation, saying “I truly appreciate your frankness, especially from a priest. There’s not enough of it today. I’m going home now to tell my wife and family that I was right.” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “Everyone, including my wife and family, tells me I’m too bold and speak my mind too openly. Tonight you gave me permission. If you, a priest, can do it, so can I. I can’t wait to get home! Thank you!”
Let us humbly ask St. Patrick for his intercession in igniting the fire of faith within the Irish people so that Ireland can again become a light to the rest of the world.
Be Not Afraid, Catholic Ireland!