Ireland 2023: Letters to the editor
Edited versions of some of these letters appeared in the print edition of The Irish Times?s 2023 supplement. The letters, along with others not carried in the supplement for space reasons, appear here in full.
I wish to add my voice to those celebrating the spiritual revolution taking place in Ireland.
Having had the privilege of assisting at the inauguration of the world?s first woman Pope last weekend on the Skellig Islands ? I observed events from a light craft bobbing on the waves - I would like to share some thoughts with your readers.
That Ireland should have provided the first woman Pope in the person of Noirin Ni Riain is a great honor to our people and culture. To witness the ceremony was an unforgettable experience, as this Princess of the Church sang her Hymn to Brigid in Gaelic from the summit of Skellig Michael echoing the words of our ancient Irish saint that ?Heaven be filled with good wine for all eternity?. Her song was powerfully supported by Bono and the Edge, both astride the Eagle?s Eye, reaching out over the sea beneath the splendid holograph of a giant open-winged gannet (wing span 200 meters), created for the occasion by Cork artist, Dorothy Cross.
The aesthetic of the occasion ? for so long missing from our tired Christian liturgies - was well matched by the spiritual quality of the ceremony and its guests.
How could one not be proud to see Pope Ni Riain flanked at the ancient 8th century altar by world religious sages such as the Dali Lama, Sogal Rinpoche, Swami Chidananda and other leaders of Jewish, Islamic and Christian denominations(with Julia Kristeva as special representative of the New Humanists). And it was a very moving moment to see some former bishops called back from retirement to serve as altar boys for the occasion. Pope Ni Riain may be radical but she is not vindictive: men are still allowed to confer certain sacraments and officiate at Mass (as long as there is at least one female present). It was inspiring to hear the announcement of the Irish Church?s fivepoint plan, recently agreed at the Skelligs Ecumenical Council:
1) Approval of a new monasticism placing the original spiritual revolution of the early Irish monks (Eriugena, Columbanus, Gallus) in dialogue with the modern interreligious mission of visionaries like Merton, Bede Griffith, Sarah Grant and Abhishiktananda. The exchange of blessings at Skellig?s Eight Century Beehive Chapel - between the Abbot of Glenstal and Choqui Nyma of the White Monastery in Kathmandu - symbolised the contemporary meeting of ancient monastic traditions of East and West. A momentous encounter broadcast globally on live stream.
2) Concelebraton of an Interreligious Eucharist based on Teilhard de Chardin?s ?Mass on the World? attesting the threefold principle that ?matter is mystical?, ?Union Differentiates? and the ?Body of God is for all humans? ( not just those baptised in a single Christian denomination).
3) Replacement of the old Church prejudice against human sexuality with the acknowledgement that eros is a divine creative energy whose primary exercise is play and pleasure rather than procreation and property.
4) The reconversion of hundreds of ancient holy sites in Ireland ? dedicated to Brigid, Patrick, Finbar and others ? into postmodern pilgrimage destinations. Current figures indicate that the number of national and international visitors to these sites - and to the thousands of hospitality Godpods along the routes ? is already well in excess of the annual tally of visitors to Compostela, Lourdes, Rome and Jerusalem.
5) An environmental alliance between the neo-Celtic Spiritual Renewal and the recently formed Euro-Celtic Archipelago of Islands with a view to fostering a renewable bio-energy industry without Profit, covering all Ireland?s energy needs with a surplus for export. The fact that Pope Ni Riain?s Godotmobile is itself fuelled entirely from a local combination of wind, sun, wave and compost energy (composed mainly of Gannet droppings from Skellig Beag) was hailed as a powerful example of the new economic imagination now lifting all velomobiles on the Irish seas and skies.
I look forward to hearing the views of your own readers on this epoch-making event in Irish religious culture.
Charles Seelig Chair of Philosophy at Boston College
International Director of the Guestbook Project
As I write this, opinion polls consistently show public trust in government soaring to over 90 per cent. Unsurprising, given our country?s transformation over the last decade. With full employment, homelessness a thing of the past and enlightened health and education programmes, we have become the envy of Europe.
Contrast this satisfaction and optimism with the worried malaise that consumed our nation a decade ago. In 2012 a global study of confidence in leadership found that overall trust in government in Ireland was just 35 per cent and that seven in ten Irish people did not trust Government leaders to tell them the truth. (Source : Edelman Trust Barometer). Again, this was not surprising given the seriousness of the problems roiling our country at the time. We were all shocked by the fragility of the economy and shaken in our confidence that our leaders could fix the problem.
So, how did we get here?
Democracy stands or falls on the quality of its leadership, and we were fortunate to have had gifted leaders over the last decade. Perhaps Abigail Adams was right when she wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams, ?Great necessities call forth great leaders?. As a nightingale only sings when he hears another nightingale, so a leader?s power derives from his or her ability to inspire others. We needed leaders who inspired hope that they could lead us in difficult times and restore not only our broken economy but also the confidence of our nation. We had to get our optimism back.
Our Government?s candour impressed us most. They knew what needed to be done and had the will and capacity to communicate their vision to us. They understood that language should be used with precision to achieve transparency and clarity and not cut adrift from its true meaning to distort and mislead. People will accept almost anything except cant and hypocrisy and it was refreshing to find that our new leaders eschewed both. So they won our trust and we were prepared to collaborate with them to achieve significant change.
Leaders and the electorate are partners in the same dance - `how can we know the dancer from the dance?? Jim Collins wrote that great companies start by ?getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats?. Leaders govern with the consent of the governed and we put them there through elections because we support their goals. People ought to be informed participants in the process of governing themselves and they have an obligation to keep leaders accountable and focused on their joint quest.
Over the last decade we did that and got the right people on the bus.
We will not have this government forever, and we need to make our current prosperity sustainable, but for the moment let us bask in the knowledge that the ?Troika?, the ?bank bailout ? and the ?promissory note? are but a distant memory of times gone by and rejoice in the words of Nelson Mandela?s favourite poem: ?I am the master of my fate.?
This is the 10th anniversary of my first and best selling novel: ?Petrina Says Peut-etre.?
I write to acknowledge its motivation by my four disrespectful children who declared themselves disgusted by my continued scribbling at works in philosophy of religion and demanded that I write a romantic thriller and make some money.
I appreciate your rave review last week (Irish Times, January 25th, 2023) of ?What Perturbed Petrina in the Woodshed? - my eights and still best-selling account of the sleuthing adventures of glamorous detective Petrina Pulsating. You will be glad to know that its film rights have been acquired for a seven-figure sum. The studio is seeking to cast former boxing world champion Katie Taylor in the title role.
I can also advise your readers that the withdrawal of my papal knighthood, on grounds of ?unseemly fictional publications - unbecoming in a chevalier of the papal court?, has been more than compensated for by the award of an honorary dukedom by his majesty King Charles in this year?s honours list. I am reliably informed that this honour was awarded on the insistence of her majesty Queen Camilla, a dedicated fan of my novels.
Next month I will be the guest of honour in Chicago at the annual conference of the League of Sensitive and Concerned Mature American Matrons. (Scam-Am for short.) I understand that I am to be recipient of their Golden Hatpin award for my contribution to the recognition of the amorous insights and investigative intuitions of mature American matrons.
As you will note from my address, I now reside in California because the literary obscurantist Irish Government has rejected my request for exemption from all taxes on grounds of my literary achievement.
(His Grace) PATRICK MASTERSON,
Chateau Petrina, Sunset Boulevard, California.
It?s hard to believe that this day 10 years ago I had just signed off the dole having been unemployed for a year to start my new company - ItsBesideYou.com. How times have changed.
Technology then consisted of my many iDevices where communicating with friends and colleagues meant posting to your ?wall?. We watched the death of physical media where even Bowie became an iTunes only rocker and learning how to dance ?Gangnam Style? meant adding to the already humongous views on an online channel called YouTube.