The Irish: Faith Pervasive as Metamucil in an Old Priest's Diet
Unsworth, Tim, National Catholic Reporter
Each year, around St. Patrick's Day, I examine my blood for trace marks of my Irish faith and culture. Despite some dilution (I am three-quarters Irish), I remain a sturdy monument to repression -- as sure a mark of the breed as an Irish jig.
Irish or not, no American Catholic can escape the influence of the Irish culture and theology that is as pervasive as the green dye that colors the Chicago River each St. Patrick's Day. My parish church has German roots, but the last three pastors have been named Fahey, O'Brien and Hickey. It wouldn't have mattered if their names were Schnitzel, Perogi or Parmigiana. The Irish have been the primary cultural and religious force in the American Catholic church since the famine of 1840-1850.
In less than a century after the tidal wave of Irish arrived on our shores, 80 percent of the bishops in America could claim Irish roots. The "FBI" -- foreign-born Irish or full-blooded Irish -- dominated the clerical culture and, until Vatican II, the priest was the primary interpreter of Catholic mores.
The poor Irish. Repressed politically by the English for centuries they also had to absorb a Jansenistic theology that turned them into a paradoxical people, full of poetry, fancy and dreaming, yet plagued by a terrifying sense of guilt and need for respectability.
They left their isolated farms in Ireland and gathered for protection in America's cities. The men built the railroads and the …
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Publication information: Article title: The Irish: Faith Pervasive as Metamucil in an Old Priest's Diet. Contributors: Unsworth, Tim - Author. Magazine title: National Catholic Reporter. Volume: 32. Issue: 20 Publication date: March 15, 1996. Page number: 16+. © 2009 National Catholic Reporter. COPYRIGHT 1996 Gale Group.
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