Letters From Ireland

Among letters responding to recent posts are two from Dublin. One is from a parish priest uneasy with Rome’s Disneyfied wedding fest and its predictable press response. One of the uncountable shepherds of a stumbling contemporary flock, he writes to say:

The last two weddings I had were of couples with a child – and the vast majority now cohabit before their nuptials. The apparent attempt to spin this with details released to the press was puerile and offensive —not to mind a breach of confidentiality of those concerned.

Jan Bulhak. Evening Light. From series on Vilnius in the 1930s).
Jan Bulhak. Evening Light. From series on Vilnius in the 1930s).

Previous reflection on the movie Calvary, prompted words from a teacher at the Scoil Talbot National School, Condalkin, Dublin. His summary of the religious temper of contemporary Ireland is bleak. And his final sentence is an unspoken indictment of the sensitivity-saturation that cripples adults in transmitting stories of a suffering redeemer:

Just to say from an Irish reader in Ireland of your reflection on ‘Calvary’ that yours is the first review I’ve seen that has noticed the obvious links with the story of Calvary!

The film came out here much earlier in the year and the mainstream film critics I read and heard and saw did not see what it was about. My guess is it’s because the vast majority of the population nowadays do not know the story of the Passion in any detail at all. I thought it was an amazing film, one that challenges everyone. . . .

I know it sounds dramatic, and I’m not a fan of making dramatic comments, but it is true. Most people in Ireland no longer go to Mass. It’s been many years since most have; and even on Christmas these days the churches aren’t packed out like they used to be. Attendance is still plummeting — older people dying, not being replaced by younger people. I’d say most people are of course aware of the [Passion] story, but definitely do not ‘know’ it.

Post-primary religious education had been wishy-washy for many years . . . . And so most adults in Ireland have relied on their memories of primary school classes and their understandings as children of the story. And since the Passion is obviously quite violent, primary school teachers may not really engage as deeply with it as they might with other stories with Jesus.


The writer included a link to Help With the Tough Questions, an online resource created and maintained by primary school teachers for their own use in the classroom and for as many other Christian parents and educators who might find it helpful. It is rich trove of quotations on a broad range of topics from the nature of Jesus, the saints, and suffering, to prayer, animals, and the necessity of gratitude. Much more.

This from Fr. Eamon Devlin, CM, suggests the sensibility that informs the site’s approach to religious education in lower school:

Children do no need explanations so much as they need someone to open up their gift of wonder. All you have to do is bring God into their sense of wonder.

Jean Baptiste Greuze. Idle Boy (18th C).Musée Fabre, Montpelier.
Jean Baptiste Greuze. Idle Boy (18th C).Musée Fabre, Montpelier.

Note: It was Fr. Devlin, Provincial of the Vincentians in Ireland and England, who intervened earlier this year to stop the proposed auction of letters between Jackie Kennedy and Vincentian Fr. Joseph Leonard. The letters, considered Mrs. Kennedy’s unwritten autobiography, have been returned to the Kennedy family.