Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power

By Kristin E. Heyer; Mark J. Rozell et al. | Go to book overview

9
CATHOLICS AND
THE SUPREME COURT
From the “Catholic Seat” to the New Majority

BARBARA A. PERRY

IN JUNE 1963 President John F. Kennedy made a sentimental pilgrimage to Ireland, the land from which his family was only three generations removed. JFK, not noted for the public emoting that is seen with annoying frequency from our politicians in the twenty-first century, told a gathering in Limerick, “So I carry with me as I go the warmest sentiments of appreciation toward all of you. This is a great country, with a great people, and I know when I am back in Washington I… will not see you, but I will see you in my mind and feel all of your good wishes, as we all will in our hearts.”1 Bidding farewell to the crowds that turned out to say good-bye to the youthful Irish American president at Shannon Airport, he again waxed nostalgic: “What gives me the greatest satisfaction and pride, being of Irish descent, is the realization that even today this very small island sends thousands … of its sons and daughters to the ends of the globe to carry on an historic task, which Ireland assumed 1,400 or 1,500 years ago.”2

The president then took out a slip of paper on which he had scrawled a verse, quoted to him the previous evening by the wife of Irish president and national hero Eamon De Valera, because JFK thought the words were “so beautiful”:

'Tis it is the Shannon's brightly glancing stream,
Brightly gleaming, silent in the morning beam,
Oh, the sight entrancing,
Thus returns from travels long,
Years of exile, years of pain,
To see old Shannon's face again,
O'er the waters dancing.3

-155-

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