Orbiting Dicta

Monthly Archives: June 2011

Two Faces of Northern Ireland

The new Star of County Down is without question 22-year-old Rory McIlroy, whose stunning victory at the U.S. Open Golf Championships at Bethesda was duly celebrated when he returned triumphantly to his home town, called appropriately enough, Holywood (only one L, but pronounced the same).  The second youngest winner in history, McIlroy is only a year older than Bobby Jones, the legendary amateur who won in 1923.  And he follows last year’s winner, also from Northern Ireland, Graeme McDowell.

In all the hullabaloo, little was said about McIlroy’s religion. A Catholic boy reared in a largely Protestant area of Ireland, McIlroy is about as far as one can get from the rock-throwing, clenched-fist, angry young Catholics of East Belfast.  Those were in evidence just two days after the US Open, following a surprising outburst of  Unionist violence at the beginning of what is traditionally known as “the marching season,” several weeks in late June and July during which the Orange Order repeats to the extent allowed by law (and then some) the Protestant victory over the Catholic supporters of  James II and the Battle of the Boyne.  That was in 1690, but from the force of feeling still evidence in bonfires and the banging of giant drums as marchers parade through Catholic neighborhoods, it could have been last year.

After several years of relative peace, the violence caught most people by surprise as Catholic homes were targeted with paint bombs and bricks.  When the police moved in, their vehicles were set alight and the riot commenced.  Nationalist “dissidents” were quick to respond.  Eventually shots were fired, but although a reporter was wounded in the leg, no one was killed –this time.

Talks between Unionist and Nationalist leaders restored a measure of calm to East Belfast.  But the marching season has barely begun.  The weeks’ unsettling disturbances obscured for a time the joy and rightful pride of County Down, but McIlroy’s achievement will far outlast the sad images of sectarian conflict in the north.  Please God, his will be the face of a new Northern Ireland.

God’s Love

A few months ago, Cardinal Francis George stirred up a few feathers when he wrote in his column that we should not be upset by the fact that God loves some people more than others.  As fate would have it, I came across this passage in Meister Eckhart’s sermons the other day, and it reminded me of the discussion.  Today, as Protestants and Catholics try to keep the lid on in Belfast and the usual mayhem is afoot in other parts of the world, it seems like a helpful point of departure for reconciliation.

…among all creatures He does not love one more than another: for as each is wide enough to receive, in the same measure He pours Himself into it. If my soul were as capacious and as roomy as the angel of the Seraphim, who has nothing in him, God would pour Himself out into me as perfectly as into the angel of the Seraphim.

… God as being pours Himself out into all creatures, to each as much as it can take. This is a good lesson to us to love all creatures equally with all that we have received from God, and if some are by nature nearer to us by kinship or friendship, that we should still favour them equally out of divine love in regard to the same good. I sometimes seem to like one person better than another; but yet I have the same goodwill towards another whom I have never seen, but this one is more present to me, and on that account I am better able to give myself to him. Thus God loves all creatures equally and fills them with His being. And thus too, we should pour forth ourselves in love over all creatures. We often find the heathen arriving at this loving peace by their natural understanding, for a pagan teacher [Aristotle] says ‘Man is an animal kindly by nature’.

Sermon 75 in the Stuttgart edition (No. 88 in Walshe’s English translation [1987], II, 279-80).

The Longest Day

Here in Ireland, the sun sets late – about two hours later than it does in the US. And it rises earlier, as well, especially at the solstice.  But it’s this mid-summer night that will seem long.  Wimbledon aside, it is tonight’s vote of confidence in the Greek parliament that has European eyes fixed on the news channels.  If Prime Minister Papandreou loses the vote, Greece may well be headed toward an inevitable default on its massive debts, and the European Union has based its offer of a second bailout on the stern austerity budget and increased taxes that are the burr under the saddle of popular resistance in Athens and elsewhere.

Should Greece default, economists are wary that Spain, Portugal, and Ireland will head in the same direction as the monetary house of euro-cards begins to totter.  France, Germany, and England will be adversely affected as well, despite some evident whistling in the dark.

The back-story is worth exploring.  Volumes will be written about it in years to come.  For now, the simplest explanation gets down to a familiar refrain: irresponsible financial policies, dodgy bank loans, lack of regulation, and a massive failure of accountability.  Call it “2008, the Sequel.”

As the cost of living goes up and the standard of living goes down here in Ireland as elsewhere, it’s difficult to resist citing an ancient adage that sophisticated financiers (and politicians) might well consider: “the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” [1 Timothy 6:10].

If that seems naïve, here’s another more homely version: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Stay tuned.