The Spirit of Our Ancestors
By, Fr. Jeremiah O’Shea, Chaplain
AOH Sean MacBride Division 32
The Irish of today are the descendants of a very ancient people, the Celts, who were the common ancestors as well of the modern Scots and Welsh. It was to these people that Patrick, once enslaved by them, returned in 432 from England with the Gospel.
This began an enduring marriage between the life-loving Celts and the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ. The Irish church, and not to exclude the Scots and Welsh, grew with an intensity of faith and an influence that would dominate Europe and many other parts of the world over coming centuries. But in time oppression, and still later, famine, would bring untold suffering and isolation to the Irish. Yet the faith that Patrick brought so many years before would still shine, dimmed by the events of history, but never extinguished.
Father Timothy Joyce, in his powerful book Celtic Christianity, suggest some qualities of Celtic/Irish spirituality for today: “. . . to embrace a way of life that is a real commitment to the belief that the Trinitarian God is alive in this word, that Christ remains incarnate in his church, that each Christian is called to active discipleship in building the kingdom of God . . . it opens us up to a viewpoint that cannot separate Sunday and the rest of the week, this world and the nest, the spiritual and the secular, the individual and the community . . . to find God in the ordinary events of life, love, eating, working, playing . . . the church is our family in which we find assistance, support, and a sign of God’s presence. Pope, bishops, and priests are brothers but never take the palace of Christ, the Spirit, and the Father . . . despite its darkness, the world is still good. ”
As members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, it is this spirit of Saints Patrick, Brigid, and Kevin, of the martyrs of oppression and famine, of the heroes of struggles to be a free people as our God and creator wills, it is their heritage to which are committed in our own time and place.