A few miles from the monastery of St. Finnbarr (his feast day is this Saturday!) is the village of Ballingeary. Entering its small parish church, my Irish friend and I saw a red biretta in a glass case with an inscription: “In remembrance of His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Manning, born in Ballingeary November 14, 1909, Ordained 1934, Bishop of Los Angeles 1946.” Cardinal Manning, the son of a blacksmith in a village of 235 souls, built up the largest archdiocese in America, opening a new parish every month and a new school every other month. Business was booming in the 1950s.
Today Ireland has lost much of its faith. Few Irish attend Mass regularly, or teach their children the faith, or even get married to the people with whom they have children. Ireland legalized abortion two years ago and easily submits to the dictates of gnostic ideologies such as gender and racialist theories. The enemies of Christ are blowing big holes in what was once Ireland’s thriving Christian culture, and the Irish are defenseless against the onslaught. In the four parishes in which I concelebrated Mass during my visit, only one had an Irish priest, an elderly and charming man, but helpless against the destruction of his Church. The other priests were from Poland, Nigeria, India, and anywhere the Irish bishops can get them. They are good men, but not missionaries, not fired with energy to build the Church in Ireland. Where are the Irish priests? The parishes of Ireland are mostly empty, museum pieces of a once thriving society, while the hierarchy can manages only the most feeble resistance against the overwhelming firepower of the enemy.
And yet, the Irish people retain their charm, which springs from their natural faith in humanity and, I hope, deep-seated faith in God. I pray that God sends a new St. Patrick to Ireland, another St. Kieran, a modern St. Lawrence O’Toole, to rebuild its faith. What has happened to Ireland is happening to America. We pretend that we are Catholic, but we buy into every gnostic and pagan ideology that comes our way. We do not pull our children from schools that teach them to despise religion and to hate their bodies. A beloved and respected priest in a nearby San Francisco parish told me that “we priests are just here to close up the churches as gently as we can.” But I believe that another St. Patrick will come to us, another St. Francis to rebuild the Church, for God continues to send His prophets. As we await these saints, and as we hope for the rebirth of Christian culture, let us remain faithful to our own parishes, to our own families, and to our personal prayer. In the words of Padre Pio (his feast day is this Thursday!): prega, spera, e non ti preoccupare! Pray, hope, and do not worry. Jesus Christ is Lord, and He will provide.