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.

Advertisements

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/

 

21 blog posts series take twenty

21 blog posts series take twenty

Twenty: “Refugees and the art of welcoming”

Earlier in the week we were exposed to heart-breaking images around the world of people, including young children suffering terrible pain within a war struck Syria. These were innocent civilians suffering simply for being in the place they are in. I know we wouldn’t wish this on anyone, to attempt living life in these hazardous and chaotic conditions but when we don’t give the support to refugees who make the journey to emigrate abroad, we don’t leave them with much choice. Formalities and integration of refugees is a time consuming process but when we think of these innocent people dying, there has to be realisation that we must do more.

I just think it creates this falseness when we try to attract tourists to our country, proclaiming loudly and proudly how great a place is and how welcoming it is but when it comes to those who are in need of that welcome, the door often remains shut. I suppose this comes down to finances and available funds but when we look to history again, it can be noted that often at times, sacrifices were made in much more dire circumstances. We are doing humanity and our history a disservice by not allowing refugees in.

I feel that it’s naturally in us as people and even throughout the ages to travel to new parts and really there shouldn’t be barriers to that. We should be encouraged to move about, whether that be for leisure or necessity. I understand that each nation has its own identity and culture to be proud of but the idea of multiculturalism is not a punishment of any sort and shouldn’t tarnish that identity. I think that more often than not we learn from others’ backgrounds and there should be a mutual respect there both for our similarities and differences.

It comes down to the simple things that we want to pass on after we’re gone. How do we expect to teach our children to be inclusive towards others on the playground when the adults are not doing the same on the even bigger playground? This is not just to do with how refugees are treated but simply all minorities. Prejudices are created by us, we are the only ones who keep them alive by practising them out socially in some way or another. So it really comes down to asking if we want to keep this alive or we want to come across better than that in our chapter of history.

Multiculturalism enriches a society in tackling our close-mindedness that can sometimes prevail. If you’re proud of something, like your country and its identity, why wouldn’t you want to share it and show it off for the greatness you feel it has? Donald J Trump’s idea of making “America great again” is supposed to come about while refugees are being rejected and a travel ban is put in place. When you think about that in logical terms, what’s does “great” actually mean here – great for whom? Of course when we look to the history of America, it’s totally based off immigration but who’s listening to common sense in 2017 anyway.

I think that we have a long way to go yet before we are close to creating a fair and equal society, where each and every one are being welcomed to the table is something commonplace. But situations and decisions like Brexit and the obstructive policies of Trump’s Government are certainly steps backwards in this. I think we really need to listen to the stories from refugees to truly understand why they are making these journeys, often seen as nearly suicidal with slim chances of making it. But what do they face if they do make it? We shouldn’t be there to give more hardship to these people. We are all connected with the likes of diaspora and emigration, so why is there a negative dialogue around refugees now? This is nothing new and simply part of a changing world.

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

21 blog posts series know nineteen

21 blog posts series know nineteen

Nineteen: “Expecting the unexpected”

Now not to steal a line from the RSA, but not only does driving involve expecting the unexpected, in life we should remind ourselves to try and maintain that same mentality. We don’t know what might happen tomorrow or next month and so on, the unexpected is never too far away. Does that mean that we live in fear and refuse to go outside the door? I’d like to hope not. The unexpected occurrence doesn’t necessarily have to be negative, but for the most part – it can mean something that’ll change your lifestyle or how things were before this vital change of events.

Whatever your opinion is on fate or things happening for a reason, it’s impossible really to have complete control over what is going to happen in our lives. Not to scare the control freaks out there, but this is very true. You don’t know who you might meet, what you might see and what could stay with you in the form of a lasting memory or something having a lasting affect. I think these things often can give us an opportunity to reflect as well, which shouldn’t be knocked as I’ve said before somewhere.. (https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/the-first-of-21-blog-posts/).

What I can say is that life is going to shock you and leave you feeling a little insecure at times. But often, it’s a form of a test, if you want to look at it that way. Can you overcome a challenge, big or small or will you crumble in defeat before it? I think both reactions are respectable and understandable and it’s about having the support around you when these things happen in order to tackle the challenge knowing that you’re not alone. I don’t think that life waits for anyone and it’s up to us to keep up and keep going, constantly.

The unexpected things also teach us not to take things for granted in terms of the way they are simply. This is true of people as well. When someone falls ill unexpectedly, it’s really up to those close by to pick up the pieces and really play their role in the time of need. When someone of any age falls ill mentally, physically or even discovers a disease or disability – this presents a new changing challenge for the person and those around them. It means we all pull our weight a bit more to help and that we get on with it, living in hope that together it can something to overcome.

I think that this brings about something that’s universally understood: that this sort of unfairness that happens to people can happen to anyone. This challenges your sense of humanity and I think that’s when your humanity is challenged, in terms of whether you help or whether you turn your back to the reality someone else is facing, this is the real test of who you are. Our impressions of how people react to these situations also helps us to understand people at their core, individually. We don’t know how we’ll be in that sort of situation until we face it head on. I know it’s not something we desire to be in, but the reality is that we will have to face it in some shape or form.

These challenges change us and shape us and although often difficult, they should be embraced in some way, I suppose even in a process of reflection. I would recommend, holding on to your values as much as possible throughout these times. Whether it’s a loss or a gain you encounter, you must prove to yourself that one incident isn’t going to change who you are and what you value forever. Possibly easier said than done, but over time can be something to accept.

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