I am human. I am a man. I am Catholic. I am Irish.

Month: January 2015

Irish Men: Pick up your Weapons of War

knight2One of the most persistent memories from my childhood, which both evokes sentiment of reverence and harkens to connection with an element somewhere outside of time itself, is the gathering of my aunt and my cousins each weekend to pray the rosary. As children we often looked lightly upon the seriousness attached to and the significance of such a seemingly small event. I also recall my mother persisting and insisting upon the attendance of every family member in the living room, despite the obvious reluctance and inevitable protests. Still, to this day, I cannot fully explain reasons for the unseen force of repulsion that caused each of us to resist the recitation of such a seemingly good and holy prayer every night. Something so easy and so short (twenty minutes tops) required the greatest effort or strength for participation.

The big question though is not why it was so hard to pray but rather, where were the men? If the most vital of all pursuits is the spiritual pursuit, which will ultimately decide our eternal fate and the fate of the world, why were those who are charged with leading, protecting and providing for their family not taking front and center command in what appeared, for their children, to be a compelling battle. Why did they appear reluctant or even resistant themselves to involvement in a role that potentially impacted heavily the souls of their own flesh and blood? And what made them scorn a duty they were entrusted, as guardians of the holiness of their brides?

Research has found that men are absolutely essential for the health of their children’s spiritual lives (Dollahite, 1998). Investigators found that a woman alone can only be effective to a limited degree. They discovered that it mattered little how devout or persistent the woman in the household was, if the man was not living their faith overtly and was not as respectful in their duty to encourage faith, their children were most likely to fall away from their faith and live it at most in a lukewarm manner. Where are the fathers of Ireland? What great responsibility they have. Do not take lightly these words:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come” (Matthew 18: 6-7)

Take heed of the words of Christ to Saint Faustina about lukewarm Catholics:

These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to flee to My mercy.”

The responsibility of a man is so very great. So why is that responsibility not embraced? The answer is because it is too difficult and they have not the power. They have not the strength to embrace the requirements of battle, and thus, they reject the calling of their own masculinity. Is this harsh?

Catholicism is not easy. As we know well it is as easy as passing a camel through the eye of a needle. This is the reason so many reject it or “lave it tae the women”. And yet, was it feminine for Christ Jesus to embrace a cross after being lashed to the point of death. Was it feminine for him to trail that cross to the pinnacle of a mountain being beaten and kicked every step, knowing that his death was imminent. His very example demonstrates the difficulty of the path for He clearly said to all men “pick up your cross and follow me”. In Christ’s masculine action the devil was defeated. In the same way it is through our masculine actions that evil will not touch our families.

KnightMake no mistake, men, we fight in a war. It is easier to fall into sinful behaviors, to ignore the needs of others, and our duty to those under our charge. Being bad is not difficult. The greatest war is obtaining perfection. It is almost impossible. Most men give up or become indifferent; how unmanly. If we are not struggling, we have been defeated. How detestable a man who succumbs to his base desires: anger, envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, pride.

Saint (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina refused to be conquered. As he lay dying he beckoned:

“Bring me my weapon” (His rosary)

He understood that time when battle is most savage. It is at the moment of death, your last moments, when satan strives to snatch you away. With all his might, Pio petitioned the forces of heaven, all the angels and saints, to protect and enter combat for him. The devil hates the rosary. When you start to pray and seek to live your life in union with Christ your King you will find that the most ferocious of attacks, in the form of desires to sin, will seize you. It is at those times you must meld yourselves with heaven and employ all resources Christ has placed at your disposal, your weapons. Live them well, live them often:

The Rosary (The Blessed Virgin Mary)


The Holy Eucharist (Jesus Himself)

The Holy Angels and Archangels

Without these powerful intercessory vehicles you will be powerless to resist and you will fail. satan knows that if he can eliminate masculine presence he can defeat the family and the family’s destruction is his ultimate goal because the family is a reflection of the Holy Trinity and the building block for all society, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is why we see so many voracious attacks upon the sanctity of the family in our modern world, and now sadly in Ireland, through abortion, gay marriage, contraception, divorce, infidelity, pre-marital cohabitation to name only six. It is the charge of the man to stand up and confront these evils with all their being. But do not be afraid for, in Christ, you have all the protection you require and Christ cannot be defeated. His promise to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

Strengthen yourselves, your brothers, your wives and children. Become the men you were born to be.

A prayer of protection:

“Spirit of our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Most Holy Trinity, Immaculate Virgin Mary, angels, archangels, and saints of Heaven, descend upon me.  Please purify me, Lord, mold me, fill me with Yourself, use me.  Banish all the forces of evil from me, destroy them, vanquish them, so that I can be healthy, do good deeds and think good thoughts.

Banish from me all spells, witchcraft, black magic, malefice, ties, maledictions, and the evil eye; diabolic infestations, oppressions, possessions; all that is evil and sinful, jealousy, perfidy, envy, lust; physical, psychological, moral, spiritual, diabolical ailments.

Burn all these evils in hell, that they may never again touch me or any other creature in the entire world.

I command and bid all the powers who molest me — by the power of God all powerful, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary — to leave me forever, and to be consigned into the everlasting hell, where they will be bound by Saint Michael the archangel, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael, our guardian angels, and where they will be crushed under the heel of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.”


Dollahite, D. C. (1998). Fathering, faith, and spirituality. The Journal Of Men’s Studies, 7(1), 3-15. doi:10.3149/jms.0701.3

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Soairse! Give me “Real” freedom for Ireland?

FreedomIf I were to say to you, “I am your ruler”, what would be your response? Would you say “yes sir, of course”, and bend your knee in homage? Would you raise your voice in protest and maybe say “No man rules me, carry on your way?” No one likes to be considered “ruled” by anyone. We reject the mere suggestion that anyone would hold any sway whatsoever over our personal choice to act in any way we see fit. I would argue that this is even more so for the man who claims “Irish” as his title. The Irish are notorious for their cautious and suspiciousness of all forms of authority. Any person, group or organization are met with the strictest of scrutiny and if they are found to be, in any way, reducing the individuals freedom to choose, they receive swift and severe rebuke which may take the form of an angry retort, an uprising, or a simple box to the gob. So it is with no small intention that I pen this next piece as an indication to you, the Irish people, and a suggestion merely to encourage you to think a little about something that has been troubling me for a long time.

You see, Ireland is ruled. Since mankind arrived on the island, Ireland has been ruled. You may consider being ruled anathema, but collectively, north and south, rich or poor, Ireland’s people have been governed by someone or something. Of course it appears to be a natural facet of human society that there are always people who seek to have some form of authority over others. They increase their personal power to influence the thought, word and action of the other. They evolve in time from individuals into groups by uniting with others of like mind and desire for governance. These alliances increase their power and centralize authority into certain organizational structures. We call these structures government and we call the people politicians. The Vikings, the High Kings, the Normans, the English all had their go at ruling the Irish and today we have Fine Gael with good old Enda Kenny in the south and the Assembly with good old Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness in the north. And, as the centuries rolled by, the methods used to govern have transformed from “by the sword” to “by the gun” to “by the influence of information.”

Information has proven to be a very powerful tool, used by those who wish to rule, to get those they rule to accept them as rulers. It is very simple; say the right thing, smile at the right time, shake the right person’s hand and do it so the right people see you and you can make people very willing to vote for you to govern in their place. This is how a political system works and as government structures grow we watch as power is gradually settled into the hands of small, seemingly different, structures called parties. In the United States of America there are the Republicans and Democrats. In Great Britain there are the Conservative and Labour parties. In the south of Ireland we have Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil and in the north of Ireland, for nationalists, there are Sinn Féin and the SDLP. The parties typically take turns at being in power and if people become dissatisfied they tend to vote the other in. This cycle goes on for decades and even centuries.

The problem with this system, I believe, is that the more people give others the authority to rule on their behalf, the less responsibility the people take to rule themselves. They lose their own human identity in the midst of the collective. They become a function in society rather than an individual human being with goodness and self worth, they become dehumanized. The politicians begin to work, not for the good of the individual but rather for the will of the majority, which will vote them into power and help them maintain power. When this happens power sits with one or two parties or people and remains with them for decades. In Northern Ireland especially, the people have witnessed the same politicians in power since the 1970’s and those politicians remain in power, more or less, until they die.

The issues they work with change little. The old Catholic versus Protestant conflict is raised regularly and typically close to election times to stir the passions of the people to continue voting for the same parties and same faces. The debate continues on and on and meanwhile our economy never improves, our education system never gets better, thousands of young people continue to leave the shores for lack of opportunities, more and more businesses shut down, abortion gets closer to being introduced as a right and still the same politicians smile at the camera and shake hands and give inane statements or interviews all designed for one purpose, to keep them in power.

But just imagine with me for a second that government disappeared. Imagine there was no council, no welfare system, no television to advertise, no newspaper to sell you an opinion. What would happen? Would the world fall apart? Would we all shrivel up and die? Would there be wailing and weeping and grinding of teeth in the street?


There wouldn’t!

hearthWhat would happen, I believe, is that once again, in Ireland we would utilize our greatest and long dormant strength – our sense of community. Remember the days when doors did not require locks, when a neighbour could come in, without a knock, to sit by the hearth and sip a cup of tea? Remember the days when people who walked or cycled would stop in the road to chat for hours and know each other better? Remember the days when, if you needed a bit of work done around the house, the neighbors would gather together to help, knowing that when the time came you would do the same? Remember the days when everyone knew each other and no one cared for who was in government because people made their own choices and had the freedom to make their own way?

We, the Irish, are a people who do not need others to look after us. We can get by if we were just left alone to harness the potential of our community strength. The more government is involved in doing everything for us, the less we avail of the opportunity to help ourselves and help each other. People become less community focused, less focused on “what can I do for my neighbor?” and more focused on “what can the government give me?” Unfortunately however, as government increases and community decreases, people become sadder, lonelier, more depressed and suicide rates increase.

I write today not to push you but just to give you an idea. If you would not accept my rule, why would you accept being ruled by anyone? I am not advocating getting rid of government altogether. I understand organization and rules to keep the bad people from our door. However, I am advocating smaller influence of government in our lives and more rights for individuals to be who they want to be on their own. Little community organizations can keep those in need, hungry or sick. We would not have to worry about having policies that run contrary to our personal values being forced upon us by politicians who are voted in only because of family voting tradition and who bow to popular opinion which does not always mean “good”.

Of course we know that those in power would never allow this because it would mean they relinquish their own power. Still, unless we stand up and choose to say “no,” those who seek not our good but the maintenance of their personal position of power, will always rule us.


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Is Ireland still being repressed by England?

mass rockOver the past few years, the interest of the popular masses in Richard Dawkins has waned significantly. He is no longer the powerhouse of atheism that saw him rise to glorified heights of celebrity stardom in the first decade of this century. In the past year, he made comments about it being humane to abort the life of a child with Down syndrome out of their mother’s womb. This has unquestionably damaged his sterling reputation as a fine outstanding, intellectual, English, country gentleman with a renowned position as professor of evolutionary biology at Oxford University no less. The public outcry was shaming and damning, as the world appears to be pushing back with great effort against the rise of a secular “anti-truth”, an idea that all behavior is permissible as long as we choose it together. To these people most behavior is permissible. There is only one small condition however, you must agree with everything these people say, or else.

Irish culture and English culture, although there are certain similarities, are actually traditionally very different. We have an alternative historical makeup, which has shaped our personalities. Like the English, the Irish people appeal to an intellectual charm, but we have also developed a cautious and healthy suspicion of figures and ideas of authority. We are not afraid to question new or outdated theories and, if necessary, we will raise a forceful voice in favor of an alternative position. Irish people generally do not care if their demeanor or disposition is scorned. They tend to be most comfortable when they are allowed to genuinely be themselves. They tend to be most uncomfortable, and most energetic in rejecting anyone or anything, if their freedom to express themselves as they desire is repressed.

Irish people have never accepted being controlled. They demand freedom; liberty to be, and they have a tradition of fighting back against any aggression, with equal or greater aggression, that seeks to make them submit. The English have been attempting to gain Irish submission for centuries. Currently, they appear to be on hiatus from efforts to achieve this task militarily or politically. However, I speculate, they are infiltrating our people in another manner which is currently passing unnoticed and unaddressed by the majority, and yet it seems every bit as detestable, dangerous and threatening to our precious culture.

famine3I recognize this invasion as a war of ideas and, let me be clear, it is not only the English who are involved in this battle against us, but other political power creations, the European Union, the United States of America and further. It really has become a global endeavor, an attempt to unify the minds of all mankind into one way of thinking. This chosen way of thinking is a non-religious, socially manufactured, value system which is starting to be enforced (or forced) and must be observed by anyone who wishes to be labeled “good citizen”.

What am I talking about? Let me explain in very basic terms. Ireland is a beautiful family oriented, virtue focused land, filled with people who just want to enjoy their families and have a conversation without worrying about what people will think of them. In my family one of the qualities I hold dear is that I can speak my mind, people will listen, people will speak back or yell, some may even become offended, but after it is over we will remain friends and live to interact again another day. On the other hand, outside of Ireland, I have experienced group and family conversations were the mere hint of someone not agreeing with the status quo is deplored. The person or idea is shut down by a tyranny of silence. The subject quickly changes or eyes roll to the ceiling or to the wall for fear someone might be expected to respond. The individual who dares resurrect such an opposing thought is quickly moved to the sidelines, spoken to less, ostracized, fired maybe or worst of all treated as though their conversation is childish and unworthy of attention. Can you imagine anything worse than this? For an Irishman this is hell indeed. And yet it is becoming an ever-increasing reality of workplace or coffee shop banter throughout the world.

The point, however, is that it is creeping, slowly, but at an ever increasing rate into Ireland. Freedom of thought should mean that every view is welcome. This means that we are free to disagree with our leaders, authority figures and those who feed us information, like the television, the newspaper, and the man on the street. We should feel welcome to raise our voice and say, “no, what you are saying is wrong and I will not accept it.” This freedom should come without fear of reprisal, of being painted as a lunatic or unreasonable, without fear of losing social standing or your job. We should also be able, on our own, to read or listen to a source and make our own decision to agree or disagree, even if everyone else seems to have accepted one position. If we do not have that freedom then we are being controlled, repressed and we should oppose it with all the strength and determination we have as Irish people in the same way we have repelled the ideas of the English for centuries.

evictionIt is no lie that our world today has been infiltrated by a secular humanistic and relativistic ethic. This means that there is no right action or wrong action anymore as long as the masses agree with it. The problem with this is that those in authority can use media and powerfully persuasive speeches to convince people to accept their way. Individual freedom is eroded because media sources portray those who disagree with them as crazy and selectively choose the positions they highlight and the positions they diminish.

The two pivotal issues facing our homeland today are abortion and the possibility of gay marriage. The evidence of psychology is overwhelming. Abortion is bad for women, it destroys lives, it causes life long mental health crisis’, it increases risk of cancer and above all, most importantly, it kills a child. We are human beings and we know this instinctively. Yet, the messages we are receiving are overwhelmingly from the pro-abortion camp. Those who disagree with this camp are portrayed as “nutjobs”, enemies of progress, stuck in the past or too immersed in religion. This is a message being fed to us daily.

Same sex attraction is a concept that has been promoted for decades now as good. Despite this, what is occurring is a process of dehumanization. The natural complementarity of the masculine and the feminine is being distorted and humans are beginning to define themselves, not according to their God given humanity, but according to their sexual function. Children, no longer seeking out their vocation as human, fall into defining themselves according to the strength, quality and orientation of a physiological sexual feeling. There is an alternative voice but it is being portrayed as not worth hearing, or immature and even disgusting. Once again, the dispersing of information is finely controlled to ensure the people hear only one side in a favorable light.

famine2This is not the Irish way. It is a method of repression introduced from other political systems, other thinkers and other philosophies from other worlds that have proven to be unstable and unreliable as arbiters of what is good (Richard Dawkins). As Irish men and women, for the good of our children, we must resist this attempt to focus our minds upon one set of ideas because it goes against everything we have ever fought for, our freedom. Maybe the ideas I mentioned above are not correct, but at least let both voices be heard. Let us weigh up the evidence for us alone and make a choice free from the influence of authorities that have only their political and financial gain at heart. Our history speaks for itself. We owe ourselves the dignity of questioning every authority that claims sovereignty over us. That includes north and south of the border.

Pray for Ireland, for your children!

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The Lonesome Boatman: The Secret of the Song


It is one of the most well known Irish laments. There are no words to it and yet it is one of the most hauntingly, beautiful and engaging of melodies in the Irish repertoire. Few words can begin to describe the effect it can have when played in the silence of a home. It reveals to mind images of dark, mist covered mountains, lakes absent of life, of years past, of friends, family, and fellow country men once strong with life. We’re reminded of the hustle and bustle of crowded hallways, houses filled with laughter, children, warmth and song. We can’t help but be drawn in. It stills us and we dwell. There sighs an ancient voice in that melody, a voice that whispers across generations to allure us away from our contemporary concerns in our progressive world to connect to a language deep within us, a dialect comprehended only by our hearts.

I sat strumming my guitar tonight in our living room and I began to whistle the melody to the chords. Until then my five-year-old daughter had been jumping around on one of the sofa seats and throwing herself upside down and in all sorts of directions as little kids do. Yet as soon as I started to whistle I noticed something change in her. Within seconds she sat still and began to stare in the direction of our Christmas tree, off into some absent distance. This continued as I moved through verse to chorus to verse and she never moved but seemed to become lost in some far off thought or emotion. It got me thinking about what is was that made this music so popular and so powerful to so many.

In Ireland we are well aware of the fragility of life. Our history is filled with stories of love and laughter giving way to parting and sorrow. Dancing, singing and playing music often gives way to images of coffin ships, prisons, wakes and funerals. As a people, our families have been traditionally strong, virtuous, pure, and close with an unbreakable spirit. Yet we hold a history of happiness fleeting, momentary glimpses of what we could be and then, ultimately, what couldn’t be, at least not forever.

And therein lies the reality of the music and the reality of life. There is love, and a great love at that, in family and friends and sharing of moments together but, ultimately, it does not last and one moment gives way to the next and as time erodes our laughter we eventually come to the realization that we ‘have had’ and because of time we ‘have lost.’ As time passes, we leave behind good times and people, who grow older, move on and we are left with ourselves. It is a lonely thought and one that is captured well in this lament.

I am not here though to beckon you a message of doom and gloom. Despite the loneliness, there happens to be a great hope that should fill us with the greatest of all joys. This is a joy that is seldom realized by many men in Ireland anymore yet it is the most vital of joys to realize because it would inform every breath we take, every thought, word and action to drive us on to goodness and greatness. This is the joy of knowing that what is open for us to grasp, if we only accept, is an eternity of those joy filled moments we remember in life the most. Those moments are infinitely greater than what we have experienced on earth and, what more, the last forever. We will be with those we love forever. We will have everything we have had on earth and more.

It is no lie that heaven is real. In heaven we will have glorified bodies and we will live in a material glorified new earth with sky and land and sea. Those who make it there will be with us including all those we loved on earth. We will have music, songs, stories and the many things we enjoyed on earth, except that we will have a superior appreciation of them. There will be worship of the King and praise for His greatness and so much thankfulness for the mercy He has provided in allowing us to be there.

The idealistic beauty of Ireland, that we all love and identify with, the mountains, rivers, valleys and culture, are only a shadowy reflection of the perfection that will follow. This is open to us if we make it there and let me be clear – making it there can be the only option because the alternative is too terrible to even utter. Ireland is beautiful because its Christian heritage has made it beautiful. The union of the people, the love, the simple, humble way of life has emerged out of hearts united to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother.

Christianity is for men. It is for is for young and old, male and female but men are especially called to lead their wives and families; this is our call and duty as men, to direct all our loved ones to heaven. If we fail in that mission, then we may very well fail to achieve that greatness of heaven and we may not see many of our loved ones there either. This is no trivial thing. This is life and death, nothing else matters on this earth and we must rise to the fight for the good of those we love.

As my daughter sat in silence staring into the distance I realized the great and grave responsibility placed on my shoulders. I realize that, though I love her and enjoy every second I spend with her, one day she would grow up and move on. I know that even though I am young I will one day also, with my wife, grow old and move on. I understand that though now I enjoy the times and memories we are making that ultimately all that is nothing but something that someday I will only look back on and yearn for. The only thing that matters on earth is my duty to direct my family to heaven. They must achieve eternity on my watch, because that is where we can be together and every tear will be wiped away. I cannot bear the thought of failing this mission and entering heaven to find that not all those I love made it. I never want my lack of action to result in that outcome.

The Lonesome Boatman, I believe, captures a raw truth of our existence. We live in a lonely world because time means that everything changes and ultimately ends. Heaven never changes, Christ never changes and He never moves away. It is the only constant and sure thing. He is all we can rely on. If only we realized what is to come we would never be off our knees.

“A man is never more a man than when he is on his knees before God”

(Click to Listen to The Lonesome Boatman)

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“A man’s” duty to “a woman”

irish family oldI was only having a bite to eat, when I caught wind of an exchange between two men sitting at the table close by. “He left the wife for her” one said. “Sure who could blame him?” said the other. “Hard for the youngsters” one said. “Well sure as long as he’s happy” the other said, and on it went.

And what can you say to that? Little I suppose, for as we know well, the world has become a very different place in the past fifty years. Expectations have shifted and values are given a certain twist to justify all kinds of actions. All in all, however, something is not right. Most people can see that, in conscience at least, if not in mind. So here goes, let me explain…

A man and a woman complement each other. They are meant to be together. There is a physical, emotional and spiritual complementarity that is intrinsic to humanity. This complementarity is undeniable and obvious. When a man and woman come together in marriage they form an unbreakable bond that will echo in eternity. They solidify a union where each person says to the other “I will not leave you, I will stay with you no matter what. I will lead you to perfection and Christ, I will protect your dignity and worth, I will provide for your emotional and spiritual needs and I will serve them. You are mine and I will not let you be taken. You will achieve eternity, even if it means my life.”

And this is it. Simple and sound! So what is going on here? What is being missed? What is a man’s duty to a woman?

There is no greater travesty in this world and there is nothing less masculine than a man who refuses to commit to the woman God has given to him to walk the earth with, to lead, protect and provide for. There is nothing more cowardly than for a man to walk away from the duty and responsibility he has vowed. Equally, there is nothing less masculine than a refusal to commit. To communicate to a woman, “I will live with you, I will have children with you but I will not commit to you in marriage” is so unmanly it is perverted. Some people call it a trial marriage or relationship. In other words, “I will try you out, see what you’re like and if you don’t suit me you can hit the road or I can walk away?” Listen up! These are the thoughts of an adolescent, not a man. They are caused by the continued attraction to a life of pleasure and a rejection of a life of meaning, accepting a life for self and saying “no” to a life for another.

When a man and woman become married, they create a union which is designed from the beginning of time to be a center of nurturance and assured protection for children to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually where each partner is so dedicated to the other that the bond ensures children receive, in equal measure, that complementarity which enables them to grow into healthy men and women. The masculine and the feminine offer very unique and distinct attributes. The giving, strength of the father complements the receiving, nurturance of the mother. There is no greater or more beautiful connection for the prosperity of children than the giving nature of the family.

In the midst of this family is the man. Masculine strength and feminine strength are complementary but different in nature, equally beautiful and mysterious and offering qualities essential to the family connection.

As a man it is my duty to love my wife. When I see her I see, not myself, but her needs. I desire her good, to support her emotionally through trials and work, to direct her spiritually toward heaven, to prayer, to Christ and His Church. My duty is to first provide her the surety of my commitment. I say to her :

“I will stay with you no matter what, even when we get old, even if we do not get along, even if life becomes so hard it causes me to fall. If we have children I will be there to support you and provide them a safe unbreakable family to grow in health. I commit by marriage because anything else is holding myself back and to hold back is the opposite of masculinity. It is not being a man. A man’s duty is to give.”

Next, within that commitment I will work hard, for marriage is a challenge and while it is enriching and filled with joy it can also be a struggle. Still, it is a struggle we face together. I will vow that no matter what emotion emerges in me I will never allow it to divert me from my mission as a man to guide our marriage through the most turbulent of waters to heaven.

Now let me tell you a little about emotions and feelings. While emotions are very human and can be very good, they can also be deceptive and are potentially very dangerous. They may require a great might to resist, a battle of epic proportions sometimes for a man to overcome and be victorious. There will always be emotions, which tempt us away from our duties as men. Emotions are good but if they ever encourage us to turn our faces away, from the women or children our lives are devoted to, then they are wrong and should be resisted with all our masculine might. It is no joke that I call it a battle for the souls of men are at stake.

What is more masculine – The man who gives in to his emotions, or the man that can feel them and still say “no”? If a man cannot say “no” then he is addicted and must fight ever harder and seek out answers and solutions. He is not free, but enslaved.

A man’s duty to a woman is to love her, and not only his wife, but also the dignity of all women who are the greatest and most beautiful, the pinnacle of all God’s creation. There is nothing in the material world that is more magnificent than woman and God emphasizes this by placing a woman, His mother Mary, in highest position above all created things. Man must respect and nurture that beauty, protecting it against all attacks that seek to dehumanize her (abortion), degrade her (sex trafficking), and reduce her to the position of object (pornography). We must give our lives to defend our women, wives, daughters, mothers, sisters and female friends above even ourselves as people and provide them the freedom to be the holy, motherly bearers of humanity that they are created to be.

Protect your women, protect your children with them, and give your life to provide them with the union they require for the protection of their children – marriage. In Christ we trust!

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Whisky, male friendship and the unspoken threat.

whisky oldI was sitting sipping whisky with a friend of mine on Christmas night. That is whisky without the ‘e’ of course because it was scotch, rather than the Irish whiskey kind. To be fair, the Irish have always had a strong Celtic closeness or bond with our Scottish kinsfolk across the sea. In whisky we have one connection.

That night we had three varieties of whisky; Laphroaig 18 year, Laphroaig Quarter Cask from the Isle of Islay and The Belvenie Doublewood from Speyside. I need to be careful when talking about whisky in this manner because, as we all know, many men have become a little too friendly with the divil’s brew and it has caused them all sorts and kinds of troubles and strife. Lord knows I’ve known “many’s a man” who have had their lives entangled and twisted in multiple directions in pursuit of that amber broth. So, Warning/Disclaimer: Drink carefully and sensibly “malt mates” (ralfy.com).

Now that I have the serious bit over with, I would like to relate a few of the joys that can be found from making a wee drop a wee experience for yourself.

Whisky has a scent unlike any other liquid. I would say it is strong, pure, and natural of the earth. At least that is what my friend and I discussed as we sampled together. When I passed it to my wife and certain other family members at the table they turned their noses up and claimed my friend and I had been duped into drinking some form of motor oil or a type of strong medicine. And medicine it is sure, for “it’ll cure all ills, be you pagan, Christian or Jew” (The Rare Oul’ Mountain Dew).

Strong, pure and natural of the earth! Laphroaig is known as the most intense flavored of Scotch whiskies. It contains a peaty, turf fire taste as well as fine mountain floral undertones. The scent transforms to an old, stone, Irish homeliness if you allow a little time to pass. It is amazing how the smell alone relaxes and the liquid warms the belly. It is great for friendship and, to me, it has a taste of Ireland or Scotland itself. It is something beyond words that cannot be grasped, but which can only be felt as an integration of years living in the fields, bogs, mountains, rivers and streams of those noble countries.

When I drink whisky, I almost feel transferred to a place that may be more idealism than realism. Nonetheless, it is a place that is attainable if only for a short time in my longing. What is this place? It is place where men share a bond of respect and peace. A place where men can be comfortable with who they are and what they say. It is a place where man’s dignity and worth are taken into account and all are granted a respectful ear for their voice in any discussion, no matter the topic.

But in Ireland today I feel many young men yearn for that camaraderie found in solidarity with other men. In the world I speak of there is a feeling of belonging to a family of brothers. There is never any fear of being berated, derided or belittled. It is a place where a man can say something foolish and yet never feel small. In that world friends promote each other. The intention is to make a friend a better man, a great man. This world would never be a place where voice and spirit are crushed by anyone who fears that one-day their friend might surpass them in greatness. In this world a man says to another “I want you to be great and I will decrease if it means you can increase”

In Ireland today it seems young men face such a challenging conflict. On one hand, they have an intense thirst for comradeship but on the other hand they feel obligated to present an image or illusion of toughness, of the unbreakable, the man without weakness. Seeking closeness, they are scared to death so show it for fear that closeness may be interpreted as desire for something more than friendship and result in them being harshly rejected. Imagine a twisted world were you can’t show desire for friendship.

old men drinkingThere are some very real forces in our culture today, which have warped the interpretation of friendship in men. Closeness can no longer be accepted as just friendship. There is always the maniacal question lingering in the background “is it something more?” Young men literally have this new culturally fabricated anxiety that their friendship could be interpreted by others or by their own friends as something more than just friendship. Their solution is to appear aloof and avoid all emotional expression. I call this madness an attack that needs to be opposed with all the might of masculine greatness we possess. It is a dangerous snake that has entered the garden to cause division and confusion in young male hearts. Young men are no longer discerning what it means to me male but rather taking on these fake forms of masculinity, desperate to display to the world that they are men and not …….

The forces causing and promoting these ideals are many and varied. Media messages (tv, movie or news report), advertisements and lobby or interest groups are some of the more obvious. We must be ever vigilant lest these forces erode our freedom to decide for ourselves, or our loved ones. They are already here and becoming stronger. Indeed, many men, young and old, have already fallen for the lie that maybe their friendship IS actually more than friendship. They ask whether the longing they have for male friendship is something more.

First and foremost, we must realize that it is okay to be men and human. We don’t need to fear friendship with another man. We can remain strong in conviction that “No, we won’t let you imprison our brothers, fathers or friends any longer.”

And so then…. back to whisky…It is my intention to enjoy it with good friends. There is nothing more to it. We will joke, we will laugh; we will enjoy each other’s company. We will support, uphold and direct each other to greatness and we will abhor and reject anything and anyone who seeks to achieve the opposite. We will accept that we are human and though we have weaknesses, we will pick ourselves up and move forward, virtuous and true.

Let us fight for the lives of our fellow Irish men. Pray for them and pray for good friends and family.

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Shane McGowan: Portrait of an Irish man

McGowan oldRecently, I have been reading the biography of a very well known and renowned Irish man, Shane McGowan, held in high regard by many across the nation. I have not read particularly far into the story of his life but there is no doubt from the narrative that he was an exceptional talent and a die-hard lover of all things Irish. I admit to being a fan and I remember back to a night in Dublin when I tagged along with a good friend to see McGowan perform live with his new band “the Popes”.

It is hard for me to put into words what enthralls me about this man so much but I suppose I will try. To begin with he is a songwriter extraordinaire. His created music, to me, is amazing. He seems able to capture a sentiment that belongs to our people. There is energy, excitement, aggression, anger and yet eloquence, intelligence, and intellectual savvy to his person and here I give all this credit to a man who spent his life as a drunk and drug taker.

McGowan had a hard life, and even though much of it was of his own making we see the picture of a young boy who always wanted to play and who never quite discovered the meaning of his manhood. His young life until he was six years old was filled with fun, laughter, play, Irish music, stories, friendship, family and community fellowship in the fields of Tipperary. He was happy there and he fondly remembers, that despite poverty and having few material possessions, he and his family, which included a younger sister, were very happy. He played cowboys and Indians in the fields, he played IRA versus the British army, he remembers his home being a safe house for men on the run, he recalls neighbors being in and out on a regular basis as people came to play music, sing, have a cup of tea and even something a little stronger. He had his first drink as soon as he could walk and he remembers each night getting down on his knees with his family to pray the rosary. In fact until the age of eleven he was quite devout in his faith. Shane’s Catholicism appears to be very important to him though it is clear from the book he, like most, did not often understand it very well. In his songs he uses Catholic imagery regularly, positive and negative, because just like a human being, the Church has both sides to display.

Shane’s happy childhood included no running water, with a toilet in the bushes or out the back door, but his family wanted for nothing because they had everything in themselves. They had family and Shane was happy. It occurred at six years old when his world came crashing down. His parents, who went seeking fame and fortune over the peaceful existence Shane had come to know, wrestled Shane from his native Tipperary. He was thrust into the culture-shocking milieu of London city. It was like a blow to the head and for a six-year-old country boy in a big new and often-fearsome city Shane was lost.

Disruption can be a difficult experience for anyone. Even positive experiences in our lives can come with stress and pain. God knows the Irish have had their share of turmoil through it’s long history, two devastating famines and hundreds of years of warfare to name only three. So many songs of immigration, love and loss, and so many songs of what seemed to be the easiest accessible cure, the drink.

Shane became and grew up angry. His father, unable to deal with the disruption to his own life, immersed himself in drinking. His mother, unable to deal with the disruption to her own life, became depressed. Two parents became despondent to two children (Shane and his younger sister) who so desperately needed their support and care. Shane’s answer was to seek comfort in the punk scene of London, in music, violence, drink and drugs.

It is a sad life, and one that is not easy to read about but it is one sure way to discover that there really is a cure and hope for those who are caught up in an eternally disrupted world. It is not about us!

It is not about us!

It is not about us!

It is a great truth that while we may have disrupted lives the greatest cure to those disruptions is family. When we are troubled we are comforted when our family look to us and say lovingly “It is okay, I am here for you and I will help you through”. Shane lost that and I venture to speculate he became not only angry, but sad. It is true that so many children are growing up today like Shane did, with heartbroken parents who never had parents to support them through their trials, disappointments and hurt. And generation after generation the cycle continues.

Family, however, is the answer to it all. It is the answer to a strong home, strong individuals emerging to build a strong community, which influences in turn the development of other strong communities and eventually to the defining of a strong Ireland. We exist as human beings to put our hands on the shoulders of those we love and to let them know, not only with words, but in deed, that we are there for them no matter what they are going through. This truth applies even more so to our own children, wives, husbands and after that to others.

And what is our role as men. The answer is strength. By knowing this, by understanding and being aware of it, we can then decide “No, I will not allow this cycle to break my family. I will not allow the evils of my past to disrupt my present.” Men have the ability to fight back and break the cycle of hurt, depression, or monotony that enslaves their families. They just need to start being men. See article “Why is Matt Talbot so bloody manly anyway?”

New life begins in the present and it begins with the self. Shane McGowan became an adolescent, a child longing to express himself, for someone to take notice of his achievements. He is no different than any of us. We all need affirmation from those we look up to, but we need most of all to recognize that those around us and those we care for also need affirmation. A child may go to London or, as Shane McGowan says, “to county hell” but those disruptions can be overcome. They will even strengthen boys and girls to become the men and women they are ordained to be, if all they have behind them is family, a father and mother who love and support them.

So what is it that enraptures me about Shane McGowan. The answer is simple. He is a man, a human being just like me. He is drawn to being Catholic and Irish, just like me and yearns to understand it all. He has weaknesses, he has strengths, he has fallen and he has pulled himself back up. He keeps grafting, he keeps giving, he keeps creating and he has not given up. He is a man, not perfect and certainly not sinless, but a man nonetheless. Though he remains, locked in a state of adolescence, Shane deserves respect and gratitude and support and love, just as we all do because he has dignity as a human being. He, like us all, just needs the arm of support or the nod of approval from those figures of strength he once looked up to. I wish him peace and rest in this life and the next. God bless him!

Let us be men and women, fathers and mothers, who we are called to be and let us strengthen our children for the future.

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“Why is Matt Talbot so bloody manly anyway?”

talbot the secondAn old man staggered up to me in the street, pint glass in hand. Laying his right hand on my shoulder he slurred out the question “Why is Matt Talbot so bloody manly anyway?” I wish he could hear my answer.

There is no doubt that Matt Talbot is a very holy man and on this very special feast day, the solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is fitting to acknowledge that he was exceptionally devoted in his life to the Mother of Jesus Christ, our God. He considered himself her slave and he went out of his way to demonstrate his devotion to her by wearing chains of penance on his legs and arms and by offering up penance, prayer and masses to people he had wronged in his life. Now, I say to you, that is a real man.

You see, Matt Talbot was a flaming alcoholic for much of his early life. From the age of thirteen he had become hooked on a liquid, which takes the lives of so many of our Irish men. Every penny he had went to what eroded away at a life that held so much promise. Every second, day, year of his life given over to partaking in an activity, wasting precious seconds that were gifted to him to be in service to the Lord God. His masculinity decimated, his desire to serve and give to others crushed, he found himself penniless, in debt, having wronged so many and given up on any hope of family life.

Now this is not a story of life lost. It is also not a story of what could be if an alcoholic could change his mind. For that is not a realistic assessment of the situation. Matt Talbot once said:

“Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink, as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him.”

The attraction to alcohol is so emotionally embedded in the personality of the human imprisoned that it is almost impossible to escape the clutches of the dreaded disease. I can change noone and intend nothing of the sort with this article.

Matt Talbot hit rock bottom. Standing outside a pub one night penniless, his only hope was the desire of being invited in by a passerby for a drink. This did not happen and it was then that, in a moment, Matt walked away from that pub. And history was made…

This was not a planned occurrence. This decision did not have weeks of Matt scrupulously deciding upon a big change for his future. What happened then was a momentary resolve. It occurred in an instant. Matt decided to move one step at a time away from the door of the public house that had held him prisoner for so many years. As each step got further away circumstances occured. A meeting with his mother came next. In that moment he said to her he was taking the pledge. Moment to moment he began to live. In each moment he made a decision to do the right thing. He took the pledge for three months. In each moment of those three months he continued to make decisions to do the right thing. He made it to three and so took the pledge to six months and eventually for his lifetime.

Matt is now being considered for sainthood. He dedicated his life to paying back his financial debts and he dedicated his life to paying back his spiritual debts. He had Masses said for those he wronged and he prayed fervently for others.

What is fascinating about this holy venerable is that it was in that split second outside the pub in Dublin that he became in a moment, a man. He started to live in what is the most powerful tool we, as men, have – the present moment.

Saint Faustina, of Jesus’ Divine Mercy, talked frequently about the beautiful gift of the present moment. The past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. We may have had it tough, we may have had difficult relationships and troubles and we may have been horrible people to others. But that is gone now. The past no longer exists. The future does not exist yet either. It has not come yet and it may not come. We have no idea what the future holds. Therefore, all we really have is the present moment. We have nothing else. And therefore, it is what we do with that moment, that present moment, what we decide to do, think, speak or act, that will define who we are as people. That is the key and secret to life my friends. If we know in our hearts that life is about serving God. If we decide to give our moments to what is good and for the good of others then we can rest in the peace of knowing we are following his will.

This action takes only one step at a time. Ask the question “what should I be doing in this moment to serve God, to be doing what is right and good”. Worry only about that moment and get through it and leave the next moment for when it comes.

This was Matt Talbot. It is why he is considered manly and holy. He started that night outside the pub to take one step at a time, one moment at a time, to do what is right. In that moment he left adolescence behind and became a man, he became strong, he moved forward and though he no doubt fell often, he continued always to get right back up and to struggle on. He did not give up and he created one of the most beautiful and masculine lives ever witnessed in Ireland. To give yourself for others, that is the heart of a man. To reject it is to reject your true calling.

Let us today begin to embrace our present moments and ask God what it is He needs most from us now. If we do this we will make Ireland great again.

Venerable Matt Talbot pray for us.

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