I have not written a lot about professional development in the past few weeks, primarily because I have been on the road for much of June and July. And, while on the road I have been attempting to juice up my own catechetical skills and theological interests.
The last two stops of my Irish trip have been Dublin and Galway. I wrote some observations on Monday, I believe, about Dublin, but I'd like to add a few more here. Our last visit to a Dublin site was late Monday afternoon when my wife and I walked over to St. Patrick's Cathedral, literally within view of our accommodations. It may come as a surprise that a cathedral named after Patrick himself is not Roman Catholic, but rather Irish/Anglican/Episcopal. This is one of many cases where worship spaces of the Roman Catholic Church constructed in early and high medieval times were subsumed by English domination in all realms of Irish life, including religion. Recall the old adage, "cuius regio, cuius religio;" whoever is king picks the religion.
The history of religion in Ireland since the Reformation is thus quite confusing, particularly in view of English treatment of the Irish. We walked this morning from Salt Hill into Galway proper and passed a public park dedicated to a little girl who died of starvation in 1847. Most of us would associate this kind of death with the Potato Blight, but in historical fact the multi-year malnutrition of the Irish was due primarily to fiscal and allocation policies adopted by the British Crown. Elderly Irish with whom I spoke do not talk of that era as a "Famine;" rather, it is remembered as something of a genocidal plot.
St. Patrick's Cathedral itself reflects today the twisted history of the past five centuries. The structure and size of the building speaks to its Roman Catholic roots, but its contents are monuments to a strange hybrid between Anglicanism and colonial status. My recollections of Monday are filled with plaques, busts and burial sites of bishops, war heroes and royal politicians. I can recall only a few notable memorials to saints. The literature and video for guests make no mention of the religious hijacking of the facility from the Roman Catholic Church by the English national church.
The one notable impact of the building upon me was the burial site of Jonathan Swift. Yes, this is the same Swift of "Gulliver's Travels" fame, who served as the Cathedral's bishop for 32 years. Swift must have been a remarkable individual, for he is remembered fondly by the Irish for his sympathies with their plight, while holding his episcopal office by the favor of the crown. Swift was an eighteenth century apostle of "social justice," one might say, though he had a rather ghastly way of making his point. While bishop he wrote one of the most scathing social commentaries about his time, an essay entitled "A Modest Proposal." I am presently not set up to link, but I do encourage you to Google this essay if you dare. That Swift ministered in this church for over three decades and today rests beneath its floors is one of the few saving graces of the Cathedral.
I know that when I left Dublin I was determined to find the best recent biography of Swift for summer study. Happy thought: today is Amazon Prime Day.