Is there hope for the Pope?

Is there hope for the Pope?

By Cathy Lee

This piece was originally written for NUI Galway’s Student Independent News/sin.ie. Image is by Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

When it was announced that Ireland was to receive the Pope in late August, once again we were reminded of the reality of the ongoing process of Ireland’s separating of Church and State. For decades, Irish citizens have felt the affects of a constitution being filled with heavy church teachings, values and beliefs given a platform so high that it infringes on the choices of people, regardless of their religious or non-religious background. We live in a changing Ireland, and how this visit is handled by those in power, will do a great deal in defining this position going forward.

To correctly handle the Pope’s visit, we must first and foremost recognise how Ireland has changed since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Almost forty years later, we live in more secular times where Ireland should no longer be defined as “a Catholic country” as it has been on numerous occasions in the past. Today, we are open to others, the various minorities regardless of creed or race in the true honour to the land of a hundred thousand welcomes. I don’t take a position to say that the Pope should not be welcomed or allowed to visit, as that would just be another form of exclusion or intolerance and so, this is not progress. The Pope is a world figure, it would not be in Ireland’s best interest to deny him.
We even saw last month, our Taoiseach rubbing shoulders with US leader Donald Trump for St Patrick’s Day which was met with a mixed reaction. Just because Trump does not represent the position of the majority of Irish people, this does not mean that such visits of a political nature should be boycotted or denied. The same is true of the Pope. Sometimes respect has to be given to those we may not agree with in order to receive respect back, just as long as we don’t act like something we are not. Maybe it is just a case of keeping up appearances but in my view if the Pope’s visit is to be correctly handled, honesty is key. We need not play false roles in pretending that every person in Ireland love’s Catholicism and prays under a candle to the Pope each evening, because this simply isn’t true and does not represent Ireland in 2018.

Although this will not be a formal state visit, but as part of a larger World Meeting of Families, there are talks of civil protesting of the summer events, particularly from those who are survivors of institutional church abuse. I think anyone in this position should be entitled to do that. But of course we are a mixed country, from those who will celebrate the Pope’s visit here and those who may not even be aware of it. What we are all aware of, are the wrongs we have seen from the church in this country’s past and we derive our own position on people and their background that has they where they are from this. But there can be nothing worse than keeping a fire burning instead of trying to find a new more tolerant way forward. Of course not forgetting past atrocities, but progressing in a way that this hurt does not define you as a whole person.

We have marriage equality in this country, we may have the 8th amendment repealed in the upcoming months. The political space is becoming a secular one, and so the Pope should be treated as a guest to this country like any other, with no entitlements or elitism. We saw recently that our previous President Mary McAleese was denied entry to a Vatican meeting for her political views. There is no defending this move from Pope Francis and I don’t think any Irish leader should forget this most recent action when the Pope comes to visit us. It’s true that we have moved on from the days of the Eucharist Congress and 1979 but of course only time will tell how this is going to go down in August. I just hope, that we won’t digress and revert back to an unhappy time of unquestioned Catholicism in forgetting all the progress we have made, both politically and socially.

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The final year files: February

The final year files: February

I’ve always liked February. (I also enjoy the alliteration of the f’s included in this title, but that’s just me being a grammar nerd).

The reason I like February is that I feel it’s the real starter month, the reality setting month. January sees everyone full of ambition and unrealistic ideas around their new found path to greatness, where February acts as a news flash, a reality check and me being me, I appreciate the honesty of the month.

My final February as an undergraduate was full of firsts and lasts, fun adventures oversees and the always dreaded: week six of college. But this time week six was not as drastically stressful as semester one. I knew what beast I had to tackle, and tackle that beast I did. Somehow it wasn’t as bad as last time; maybe I’ve even matured a little since then? Or not, your call.

So after January seemed to last for decades, February was welcomed – the short and sweet month. Time is everything in the last months of college and it was never felt as much as this month.

First off, we celebrated our final Arts Ball. This saw us all glamorous, celebrating our last opportunity to have a fun night together as college students in that kind of setting. Fancy drinks were had, picture upon picture taken and of course once we found the confidence to take to the floor, as final years, we took it by storm.

We even ended up in the photo-booth with some guys and gals from the journalism class (the day-one huns) and a few friendly extras. It was an amazing night all round and it’s something I’ll never forget. Also to note that we saw bands The Academic play as well as my favourite locals, Bob Skeleton. So it was a busy night that went by as a happy blur.

It wasn’t until the following day that I needed to get my wits together, as I had to catch a flight to the Netherlands – casually after four hours sleep. That I will also never forget, but the citylink bus provided a handy space for a nap as did the flight itself.

Everything went smoothly and we arrived to Amsterdam city centre, a beautiful opportunity to step back in time for me as I recalled visiting the city last year. But really there wasn’t too much time for sentimentality, as there was a mission at hand. The following day, I was to travel 30 minutes outside the city to Utrecht University to attend a Masters open day.

Although sort of stressful at the time, it was fun to go exploring outside the capital and find our destination, which could also potentially be my future place to live and study. It’s a wonderful city, very quaint and picturesque. The college was pretty perfect too, with a lot of exciting potentials to come from such a course. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised how perfect it all could be.

It made me realise how vast the options are. People say degrees open doors but I really think they offer an opportunity for exploration. You just have to be brave enough to take that leap of faith. It’s amazing to think that having my degree and the work I put in can get me onto something else, a little different than originally planned but still pretty fantastic.

The days of a one person one career seems different now, as we embrace change a little easier. I think that’s what visiting Utrecht taught me. So, I’ve decided to keep my options open and potentially apply for this course to begin in September 2019. I think it would be a disservice to my journalism if I didn’t give it my best shot after enjoying it for almost four years of an undergrad.

I will say though that visiting Utrecht gave me a motivational boost to get through my assignments, so much so that I successfully (really successfully) avoided unofficial RAG week in Galway. Where has the old me gone? Am I a real adult now?

To answer that: not quite.

As February came to a close and the first two midterm assignments were handed in, nobody could tell what was just around the corner.

The final year files: January

The final year files: January

Welcome back to The final year files in brand new 2018 fashion.

I hope the new year has been treating you well, and if it hasn’t, don’t worry because in case you didn’t know, January is on the free trial month.

Some felt that the month dragged, emphasis on the “dry” and boring aspect of the particularly long month. But I didn’t like feel this, and actually had a pretty spectacular month. In summary, I finished up working at my part-time job (P45 and everything), rung in the new year with my best friends, went on a holiday with my boyfriend, began the second and final semester of my final year AND got the exam results back from last semester. Hectic, to say the least.

I realise I’m speaking here about January and it’s currently February, and that’s my bad. See I only got all of my semester one exam results at the end of last week, (on the 1-2 of Feb) so I wanted to know where I was at, before I began to blog about such a theme. Pre-mature blogging is not something anyone wants, I’m sure you’d agree.

But this won’t happen again.

To fill you in. I was pleasantly surprised by my results, and I’m really happy with how everything went. I worked particularly hard in the exam season and brought up my grades a good deal. This ability to pull myself up has allowed me to trust myself a little bit more. Knowing I’m able and will make it through this last semester with good classmates around me is something encouraging. I know now, we can do it and we are ready for whatever will be thrown our way.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog. I know everyone seems to talk about new years resolutions, changing their habits etc for turning over a new leaf. What I’ve decided to focus on, to do with this idea and also not, is simply: not to settle.

If you’re not happy with how things are or how you think it’s looking things are likely to go, do your best to change them and express what it is you’re uneasy about. Essential is this practise, that I honestly think is a certain route to happiness.

This comes into every aspect of life, from jobs to relationships and can come into play at any stage of your life. I’ve seen how those who settled into something early have had difficulty in their future trying to give themselves a second chance at change. Now I’m not saying that avoiding settling for things exempts us from this happening, but it’s certainly a help.

I will say that although this semester has started off with ease, I’ve noticed that people are getting serious about things, which I suppose is most understandable. We all know, somewhere at the back of our minds, that this is it. We are in our final semester of an undergraduate course at NUI Galway and we need to get a bit of a loose plan together about what we’ll do once the final exam is handed up and the transcript is finding its way to our homes.

It’s key at this moment and in the months to come, that we don’t settle for something out of fear and find ourselves stuck for the rest of our 20s and so on. The world is a big place, we are brave, intelligent and ambitious people – we should use this to our advantage. We kind of have the privilege of having a blank canvas here that we can decorate, explore and make up as vibrant as we can.

I’ve come to realise that I want my canvas to be detailed and not easy to define. Artsy I know.

So to make this a reality, I need to trust myself and be a little more fearless. In the spirit of this, I’ve booked tickets for the end of this week to go to Holland and attend a masters courses open day.  You may ask why, and I may not have the perfect answer to that for now. But I’m going to give this option due consideration for my immediate future, for now.

I will of course tell you about that in the next post, whether this slight dream becomes a reality. My point here about not settling is that your future is yours, and yours alone. If you want to do the most illogical crazy thing, something that only makes sense to you – just do it.. as long as its yourself you’re doing it for. How can it be that wrong?

Just to add, the most crazy thing I did in January was hang out at a parrot sanctuary in Gdansk in Poland. Worth it? Of course.

All images are taken from my personal instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

 

 

The final year files: December

The final year files: December

Hey there,

First off, happy NYE to you and yours.. I should let you know that I’m changing it to BYE though, in blaming 2017 for the little challenges of life and moving on.

Now before you begin to think that this blog post will be a negative one, think again. I’m going to show you how negative happenings can become fond memories from a simple concept: with the help of Superheroes.

I came to discover in December of my final year at college that I have some superheroes in my presence. I think, although I might be pushing this, I could even be one myself.
So I’ll explain that firstly. We had the exam season which brought with it given stress and also made us hyper aware of the study patterns and actions of others. While this was all going on, I realised everyone is very different in how they handle things. So comparing yourself to others, especially at this time is definitely the worst idea there is.

 

It’s true that everyone has to be their own hero in these circumstances. Let’s face it, it’s just you in the fold up chair in the exam hall. Although you can look across to a familiar face up ahead or a kind looking invigilator, it’s only yourself you can trust to defend you to the last in this situation.

We need to power through the battle in those hours of a challenging exam. We have to become heroes for our own sake. We can then reward ourselves to eating and drinking like Kings after our valiant efforts, which I will admit I enjoyed more than the exams themselves.

So to sum up the exam season until December 15th, I’d say the emotions were mixed with a complete ending high after a beautiful last exam. This final exam of 2017, presented us with a question where we were asked to imagine our own exam question. Like seriously, it was class, even enjoyable if I do say so.

Then December 16th happened. After my amazing high of finishing my first set of final year exams, a little disaster happened. In Galway city centre my purse containing various very important items from cash and cards to keys was taken. From this experience learned that I put too much of my life into one place, and so the loss was fairly substantial that day.

But on that day, a friend/hero saved my despair. Helping me while the incident occurred, lending me cash in order to get home and checking up on me afterwards. I mean, what a hero! I’m also thankful to the friend I met for coffee who helped me chill after it happened and all those who listened to my story via phone/messenger. So a mixed bag of emotions was certainly true at this time.

But we powered through.

Managing to get home in good time, I was met with family kindness also. I think most can recognise that having your purse stolen a week before Christmas with little to no presents bought is a bit of a mess to say the least. I am truly grateful for these heroes coming to my rescue.

So in looking to 2018, whatever the year may bring. I know I have my own certainty in trusting those I hold dear around me. So in terms of a resolution, I want to fix any cracks I begin to notice from the early stages and not find myself with no stable ground to stand on. I must value these heroes and never forget their worth.

This Christmas me showed me that times are changing and that my family Christmas will contain more than one set of family from now on, potentially more even as I spend Christmas in three different houses in 2017. Going forward, I know I’ll have to accept this new reality and leave myself open to whatever this will mean. This personal expansion was a little unexpected and I think maybe I had to lose to gain (literally and figuratively).

I’m prepared for the season to change, my college modules to challenge me and to expect the unexpected in general.

In 2018, I feel it’ll be a year while a lot of things change and the majority of people move on. I’m prepared to follow suit, whatever what might mean for me and those around me. This blog series will soon end along with my college experience, as we are half way through final year if you can believe that.

I hope that you’ll follow me to the end of the journey, wherever we end up.

 

 All images are taken from my personal instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

 

The final year files: November

The final year files: November

Hi again!

Welcome back to the bitter cold of late November night in final year. I’m going to land you straight in here during “study week” after surviving the brutal battles of week 12. Last week involved handing in two final essays worth 60-70% of modules so, good thing you didn’t see me last week is all I’ll say. But we got there in the end and honestly, for once, I’m happy with how it went down.

Meanwhile exams are just around the corner, and if by the corner I mean the weekend, then quite literally. It’s hard to believe that the first semester is complete and my friends and I have nearly come out the other side intact, amazing right? Well, we’ll just complete the final hurdle now – but frankly it’s 4 hurdles as there’s four exams. But I can tell you I’ll be the happiest wanna-be jockey or athlete if I jump these last few without any falls.

What I came to realise this month, regarding college life and the big-bad-world, is that really, you’re at it alone. But not at all in a bad way. The thing is, nobody is going to stand up directly for your own beliefs and passions bar you. This is not necessarily the case all the time, of course we have our few trustees on it, but there are times when you’re left to face challenges by yourself, with your game face on. So you need to be ready and willing to go that extra mile for what you believe in and value.

It’s all about strength in not allowing the pressure from others penetrate your mind too much. Everyone’s got their stuff, a given – but don’t let yourself be a dumping ground for others. Not a pleasant time or something that represents your worth. Be a safe haven instead, where others come to you to share, to overcome or solve problems, not make the situation worse. Working together for a solution and having a few giggles along the way.

I’ve come to see that this year is a different one, for many and maybe for me, there will be no more college after this. We aren’t in the middle of it, even though it might sometimes feel that way: no. In the coming months we will all go our separate ways, and like a sieve, only the important friendship and information grains we’ll keep.

Sure, this is a scary thought but it’s also a motivator. Like all or most, I want to do well in my exams. But, I know it’ll be nobody elses’ fault if I don’t. I think that’s the essence of adult life (I say now as a 22 year old of last Sunday). That song about doing it “My way” is really all that it comes down to. I’ve seen my friends (who aren’t my elders I might add) take on the big smoke in the last months and start new jobs in large firms. I’m proud of them, they’ve grabbed the big guns and are holding on but I know their leap of faith can’t have been easy.

Following this, some hard-hitting home truths appeared to me over the past month to do with friends, family and health scares. These showed me again how life is truly unpredictable. We really just don’t know how it’s going to go. Now, you can either live in fear of the unknown or embrace this fact and try to move with the flows of life in this way.. you let me know which aspect you enjoy more.

While I write this sniffling away in getting over my annual study week cold, I realise I don’t have it too bad. I need to stop building up problems and making my collection of rubbish for the dumping ground a large one. From now on, I’m not going to sweat the small stuff and be more accepting towards the little not-ideal situations that life throws. While always reminding myself that I’ve a decent family around me, friends to call on and treasure and a boyfriend who’s cute as can be (I mean just look at the picture for this blog, oh my!). 

So going into the final month of 2017, I wish for little change in order for me to accept how things are, and live in the now. Oh yeah and do well in the exams, while we’re wishing for things.

All images are taken from my personal instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

A future

It surprises me, when and how I think of that

Something of just you and me,

 

A future –

 

(so vivid and real)

That it may be even possible

 

I think ahead like always,

Thoughts creep in slow and

Flow all around my head fast and quick,

Trying to escape at first but being trapped, remaining

Setting something up, strong

Without any chance of defeat

 

I hope you can fit and fight on with me

In this tight and rigid space of my mind

For what the future will hold, brings forth fancies and opportunities to rip away set ties,

Unexpected but accepted, in time

 

I hope you’ll be beside me, for the big and the small things
All I can want and dream for you,

Is just to be.

Whatever that might come to mean,

All in good time.

 

The final year files: October

The final year files: October

Hi again!

Hope you’re feeling spooky on the day that’s in it. Welcome back to the bitter place of Hell that comes in the form of final year at university, brutal I know. Now October was a scary time as the college as monsters decided to come to life as assignments. These fiends were worth a high proportion of the grade and were coming all at once, a little thrilling I must admit. The dreaded and much spoken about week 6 came and went and didn’t take too many victims on its rampage (but it was close, let me tell you). So overall, it’s been a fairly scary time, so much so that Halloween itself was welcomed.

Now I know I started things off positively last month and I don’t want to totally lose that, but I will be brutally honest and say, from the front lines – we’re finding it difficult here. I thought for a short while that it was just me, when my not-so-amazing first grade of final year came back with a bang. But I soon found out that I was not alone in this pit of despair (there’s actually a few pals down in this pit, we’re holding things up pretty well).

So although it’s been stressful, it didn’t result in total failure and even encouraged some unity- that’s a plus yeah?

To change it up, I’ll bring you right back to the end of September, when my fellow students and I arose from the final year pits and attended the March 4 Choice gathering rally in Dublin city centre. An amazing experience, difficult to some up honestly as it was really such a huge thing. It ranged from chants to bants from young people (younger than I) and those a little more mature (much older than I). But it was clear that we were all united collectively for the one cause, something that on the day was tiring yet very rewarding. I’m so happy that we gave up a day to march for those whose days have been destroyed and changed utterly due to our restricting, inhumane and cruel eighth amendment.

On another more positive note, I got to attend the Irish Blog Awards at the start of the month due to this blog being placed in the final of the Personal Politics and Current Affairs Section. This was pretty incredible to be surrounded by the community – another huge one I’ll admit – of those doing something similar to me right now writing like this actively. I was honoured to see the title of this blog to pop up on screen, and although it wasn’t crowned a winner – I’m delighted for the blogs who did triumph. It really encouraged me again to keep this going further, coming back next year stronger.

So I’d like to say that we’ve now really settled into the way of final year with lectures, housemates, friends mostly known well and familiar, assignments, tests and presentations – it’s clear that we are doing things on an individual basis. We’ve faced the wrath of assignments and maybe learned a little bit more about our own capabilities. Things really came into focus when I attended a jobs fair in the college. Seeing the adult world creep closer from all sides, in an all-consuming manner probably should have panicked me. My friends graduating (although delayed slightly by the gal herself Ophelia) should have also but fair enough, it did have affect and made me think of the future ahead.

The future is dividing us as students right now. It appears to me that some have their ideas decided upon, settled and excited to run with. They have their eyes and mind focusing forwards only, not exactly seeing what’s going on either side of them. For me personally, that hasn’t happened yet and honestly, I don’t really want it to. Call me crazy here but I’d rather smell the final year flowers than think of the big company I’ll sign my soul over to or masters course I’ll choose from a hat just to have a plan together.

I know the unknown is a scary place but for me, tackling the monsters of final year right now – the unknown doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

 

All images are taken from my personal instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/