Anger of the Irish

Lifting the Lid of Anger

The Gospel today gives a serious warning that each of us will be held accountable for our anger. A question I often wondered about is why are we Irish such an angry race. As a nation we have we gained a reputation over the years for both drinking and fighting. For many it comes natural to hold onto resentments and even to be bitter for a lifetime and yet see no contradiction between that and coming to Communion Some have even sold their souls for a bit of land nearly as small as what it took to bury them. Why is land such a bone of contention that brings up so much anger?

I brought along a piece I made a few weeks ago that is called Taking the lid off anger. The lid naturally is colored red and when you take it off beneath you find all the colors of the rainbow. At the center is what looks like a diamond but is really a piece of crystal. Beneath anger there are always layers of hurt like injustice, rejection, loss, disappointment or betrayal. So were we to look beneath our feelings of anger we would find most of these and more. The diamond represents our true self, so before we can come home to ourselves which is really coming home to God its necessary to look beneath the surface of our anger and see how we can bring healing to those other painful issues that are part and parcel of our lives.

So where does our anger originate? It’s obviously very deep rooted in our psyche and historically has been directed towards two main targets. One is England and the other is Institutional Church. It doesn’t matter if we attend church regularly we can still feel ourselves railing against any form of hierarchical control. Neither does it matter if we got our living from the UK all our lives, we still like to have a go at the British and Brexit gave us ample ammunition. It’s interesting to go back in history and to uncover the reason why these two pose such big targets and why they have been so for 800 years?

A not so well known and very shocking fact is that a pope in Rome was responsible for the single greatest betrayal and injustice in Irish history and it was he who gave his blessing for the British to invade Ireland. You might well wonder how did that come about? The year was 1147 and Henry II King of England asked the only British pope in history, Adrian IV for permission to invade Ireland and take control. The carrot for Adrian was that the Church, which up until then had been monastic, would now come under Roman jurisdiction. In other words while Britain would rule the country, Rome would rule the church and every household would be obliged to pay one penny to the See of Peter which became known as Peter’s Pence, even until recent times. A penny doesn’t sound much to us but was a princely sum in the 12th Century. When the pope granted permission he was given a huge emerald as a gift and so the Emerald Isle was sold out and betrayed on two major fronts. Is it any wonder then why our anger towards church and the UK has been so strong?

I came across the actual wording of the permission given to King Henry from Pope Adrian that was formulated in what was called a Papal Bull. This is the actual text that gives a flavor of what happened:

From Adrian, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his most dearly beloved son in Christ, the illustrious king of the English, Henry II greeting and apostolic blessing. ...You have signified to us, our well-beloved son in Christ, that you propose to enter the island of Ireland in order to subdue the people and make them obedient to laws, and to root out from among them the weeds of sin; and that you are willing to yield and pay yearly from every house the pension of one penny to St Peter, and to keep and preserve the rights of the churches in that land whole and inviolate. We, therefore, regarding your pious and laudable design with due favor, and graciously assenting to your petition, do hereby declare our will and pleasure, that, for the purpose of enlarging the borders of the Church, setting bounds to the progress of wickedness, reforming evil manners, planting virtue, and increasing the Christian religion, you do enter and take possession of that island, and execute therein whatsoever shall be for God's honor and the welfare of the same. And, further, we do also strictly charge and require that the people of that land shall accept you with all honor, and dutifully obey you, as their liege lord, saving only the rights of the churches, which we will have inviolably preserved; and reserving to St Peter and the holy Roman Church the yearly pension of one penny from each house. If, therefore, you bring your purpose to good effect, let it be your study to improve the habits of that people, and take such orders by yourself, or by others whom you shall think fitting, for their lives, manners and conversation, that the Church there may be adorned by them, the Christian faith be planted and increased, and all that concerns the honor of God and the salvation of souls be ordered by you in like manner; so that you may receive at God's hands the blessed reward of everlasting life, and may obtain on earth a glorious name in ages to come. Paraphrased, the terms of the Bull known as Laudabiliter are that: • The Pope grants the King of England the right to "enter and take possession of" Ireland under the guise of God's honor and the welfare of Ireland. • The Irish people are to accept the King of England with all honor and obey him dutifully as their liege lord, with the exception that the rights of the churches of Ireland which are to be "inviolably preserved" under Roman control. • The Papacy was to receive one penny a year from each house in Ireland. • The King of England was charged to improve the habits of the people of Ireland, particularly their lives, manners and conversation. • The King of England was charged to ensure that the Roman Church be adopted by the people of Ireland, and the Christian faith be "planted and increased". So that’s where it all started to go wrong and 150 years later pope Clement V was writing to the then King Edward II realizing they had made a terrible mistake and reprimanding him for oppressing the Irish and keeping them in intolerable bondage. It was too late by then, the damage was done and the Irish became an oppressed nation from both Rome and Britain for the next 800 years. While there’s every reason to be angry about all that and the way our history subsequently unfolded with so much hardship and bloodshed, as a nation we still need to forgive in order to free ourselves of all resentment and oppression and therein lies the challenge. To all of you who are British this is nothing personal but it is no harm for you to be aware of it, just as we Irish need to be aware of what lies beneath, as we take the lid off our anger.

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