My heart sank, I have to confess. This was not a card-carrying Nigerian Anglican. Just what my children would call a random Nigerian sitting in the foyer of Jury’s Hotel in Dublin. He finished talking to a random Irishman and turned his beatific smile on me. He had been hearing about how wonderful Ireland was in the past, how safe at night .. did I not agree that it was now so different because people had lost the fear of God? Having just come off the early morning flight and attempting to shake off the fear of Ryanair and the faulty Dublin airport radar, I decided that ‘No, I didn’t agree.’ And I heard myself moving into a rant about how this wonderful Ireland of the past exported its best and brightest young people because there was neither work nor dignity for them… the women trapped in loveless and violent marriages because of the constitutional prohibition on divorce .. and while I’m at it … Time for coffee.
Anyway, the consecration of Trevor as Bishop of Limerick was great. I did my usual misty-eyed thing at ordinations – is this a sign of age? But it did me the power of good anyway. I shared the peace with Madam President .. who subsequently received communion .. and the preacher was Dom Mark-Ephrem of the Rostrevor Benedictines with whom I went on retreat last year. And there were copes and mitres and candles and we don’t seem to need to be as defensively protestant as we were in that wonderful Ireland of the past when John Charles McQuaide was Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. Oh .. and I didn’t mention the funeral of the first President of the Republic, Douglas Hyde – a member of the Church of Ireland – and the inglorious way in which members of the Government sat outside the Cathedral during his funeral. So it looks as if this new Ireland – cosmopolitan, wealthy, unequal, secular, restless – might just be more tolerantly close to the Kingdom? Of which more some other time.
What a nice way of putting it. Like being forced to write your ‘thank-you’ letters as a child.
Funnily enough, I see three uncomfortably familiar signs of age in what you say – firstly, though no longer the firebrand of youth (if ever I was) I have taken to ranting in the manner of the stereotypical grumpy old man, I get misty eyed at things that wouldn’t have touched me thirty years ago and I find myself, despite what I know about the vicissitudes of the past, yearning for some long, lost ‘golden’ age when a local bobby could tell you to ‘pack it in’ and you would.
In so many ways we’re much more enlightened now than we were, but I have a sneaking feeling that, while ‘respect’ has been formalised by legislation, in some ways it’s been lost to instinct, and that feels like a profound loss.
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