Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celtic Corner - December 2012


In Ireland, late fall is the time of the year to make the house ready for the upcoming holiday celebrations. An Irish home is cleaned top to bottom and special holiday linens would be brought out of storage. Olden days in Ireland would see the home being white washed and general repairs to the home. Once all is clean it is ready for festive Christmas decorating.

Irish Celtic Traditions

No Irish home would be complete without the holly. Holly with its glossy green leaves and festive red berries are perfect for the holiday decorating. At Christmas in Ireland, holly was used to decorate the entire house. A spray was placed over the door as well as on the mantle, around picture frames, among the plates on the cupboard, as candle rings and in other areas of the home. Gifts of holly boughs were also given to neighbors. One charming folklore superstition was that the fairy folk would come in out of the cold to find shelter in the holly branches.The Mistletoe dates back to the ancient druid priests who used it for many purposes. In later years, it was used by the Irish Celts in the tradition of kissing a woman under the mistletoe.

Irish Food

The Christmas cooking would start early with the making of the plum pudding, breads and spiced beef. A traditional Irish Christmas meal might consist of roasted goose, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetable, sausages and puddings. Spiced beef is often eaten sliced cold with fresh bread in the days after the main feast.

Irish Hospitality

Hospitality is abundant in Ireland and it is reflected in many holiday customs. A lighted candle would be placed in the window as a welcome beacon for both traveler and wandering priest. The candle is placed in the window on Christmas Eve to signify the welcome to the Holy Family looking for shelter. Anther aspect of Irish hospitality is seen after the Christmas meal. The doors are left unlocked and the table is set with bread and milk for travelers who might come in the night after seeing the welcome of the lighted candle in the window.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas are celebrated between the birth of Christ, December 25 and the Epiphany (coming of the Magi) January 6. A small gift would be given on each day during this time. The twelve days of Christmas included many festivities including parties and the visiting of friends, family and neighbors. Twelfth night would be the end of the celebrations and the day that holiday decorations were taken down.

An Irish Christmas Blessing

The light of the Christmas star to you

The warmth of home and hearth to you

The cheer and good will of friends to you

The hope of a childlike heart to you

The joy of a thousand angels to you

The love of the Son and God’s peace to you

Nollaig Shona

Happy Christmas

Correspondence Secretary                                              President

Frank Darcy                                                                    Ken Egan

Monday, October 15, 2012

Celtic Corner - October 2012

Aisle of Saints and Scholars

Only in Ireland, never reached by the Roman legions, would the Celtic culture remain intact through the centuries-long after the Roman Empire had decayed and fallen to the Germans.

The first phase of Celtic art began from about 700 B.C. with the Hallstatt period dating from a place of the same name in Austria. Its finest expression dates from about 500 B.C. with the beginning of the fantastic art of LaTene period, named after an archaeologically rich site discovered in Switzerland. It continued in continental Europe and in Celtic Britain, but declined with the advent of Roman conquest in the first century B.C. Today hundreds of objects in museums all over Europe attest to a brilliant and unique art that lasted for centuries, a legacy proudly shared by every country in which the ancient Celts lived.

Again only in Ireland would the centuries old traditions of Celtic art remain intact and survive the fall of the Roman Empire itself. Indeed the creative urge of the Celtic spirit would expand beyond the boundaries of three dimensional art to nourish the writing of seventh and eight century A.D. illuminated(elaborately decorated) manuscripts from Irish monasteries. What such Celtic scholars produced in illuminated manuscripts has never since been surpassed in world art.

Some precious and famous art objects of the ancient Irish Celts survive, such as the exquisite eighth century Tara Brooch, the priceless ninth century illuminated Book of Kells, and the noble, tenth century Irish high crosses sculptured in stone.

While early Christian missionaries from Rome encountered only rudimentary elements of law and learning among the Germanic peoples in the fifth century A.D, they found that Irish society included organized schools which had for centuries produced learned and respected specialists in religion, calendrical skills, law, genealogy, poetry and oral literature. When Ireland replaced paganism with Christianity, the Celtic high regard for knowledge and learning not only remained, but flourished more than ever with the added dimension of writing.

With the adoption of Christianity, ancient Celtic Ireland emerged from its Age of Heroes and entered its Age of Saints, becoming known to the rest of Europe as the Island of Saints.(At that time a holy man could be given the title of “Saint” without in fact being a saint canonized by Rome.)

From the sixth century the Irish became internationally known for their devotion to learning and scholarly activities and for actively spreading their knowledge and civilization abroad. The Celts, despite an alleged fondness for war, had been fascinated with organized learning and knowledge for centuries. That was what their druids and bards were all about. The early Christian monasteries in Ireland were the natural successors to the druid and bardic schools.

From the sixth to the ninth centuries A.D., Irish native excellence, representing the “purest” Celtic culture remaining in Europe, burst forth unrestrained in the literary and creative civilization. This included Ireland’s Golden Age of Saints and Scholars, an extraordinary period which spread learning and Christianity throughout much of Europe like a guiding light in the Dark Ages after the fall of Rome. During these centuries, Ireland’s monasteries are considered to have been the most brilliant centers of learning in all Europe.

It was said of these ancient Celts:

Their Wealth was not judged by what they had

but what they gave


May the good saints protect you
and bless you today


Your Correspondence Secretary                                      President
Frank Darcy                                                                    Ken Egan

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Celtic Corner - September 2012

The Celtic Church & The Church of Rome

Tara was the seat of the Kings of Ireland and located on the east coast. Therefore, the location made raids on the west coast of Great Britain an easy target and the probable area of St. Patrick’s kidnapping.

King Daithi held the seat in Tara about 407 A.D. Daithi was a great warrior. He marched into Scotland and defeated the King of the Picts (or Scotts). He marched all through England and at some point probably captured young Patrick.

In AD 431, Pope Celestine sent Bishop Palladius, a Roman, to Waterford/Wexford. This area was already occupied by some Christians.

The Pope feared that the Irish may be influenced by a British missionary named Pelagius. This missionary was condemned as a heretic by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Pelagius taught the soul had free choice and free will, not predestination. Today predestination is not a church precept.

In 432, Pope Celestine sent Patrick back to Ireland, no longer a captive, but a bishop. From the beginning and for another 200 years, the Irish Church had an individual Celtic flavor, rather than a universal Roman Order. St Patrick was a robust, energetic man about 45, roughly dressed, not adorned in long robes. He experienced Brehon law rather than Roman law.

There were many factors that missionaries Palladius and Patrick encountered that made their objective difficult, such as Pelagianism, traces of the Arian heresy, Paganism & sun worship.

The next pope, Sixtus III, fearing that Patrick was too close to the Celtic tradition, summoned him to Rome. Patrick continued to ignore the order and the matter was quietly dropped by Rome.

The Papal desire to Romanize the Celtic church would continue indefinitely, culminating 700 years later, AD 1155, with the laudabiliter and the Norman conquest of Ireland in 1169. Like the military and political situation, it can be seen then, that the evangelization of Ireland was never a smooth, easy transition, but riven with dispute, rancor and even Papal intrigue.

The Sea of Rome was continuously wary of the Celtic church and wanted it to conform to the universal order. The widespread gains of Celtic missionaries in Scotland and half of England alarmed the pro-Augustine, Orthodox Roman church. In AD664, the Irish bishop, St Colman, was ordered to attend a meeting at Whitby in Yorkshire, where he was compelled to accept Roman church customs in liturgy, feast-dates, texts, dress and tonsure etc.

During the six centuries of the barbarian Dark Ages, following the fall of the Roman Empire, Ireland became a beacon of the Christian church in Europe, the golden age of culture, art and scholarship. A leading figure of this pre-Renaissance enlightenment was Johannes Scotus or John Scot, the Irish philosopher from the Co. Down area of today(AD800-77); not to be confused with the anti-Aquinas namesake of the 13th century(“Scotus” can also mean “Dark”).

This 9th Century scholar supported the pro-Pelagian and anti-Augustinian line on free will etc., at the court of King Charles in Paris, as resident philosopher. He reasoned also, that Hell was not an eternal punishment, since sin and therefore its punishment, was finite.

Therefore, the Devil himself would eventually be saved, leaving good and Heaven as the only entity. Pope Honarius III ordered Scotus’s great work DeNatura to be burned. But some copies have survived. He himself was protected by the King.

His image was used on the Irish five-punt note in recent time. It would seem that while correctly advocating free will and choice, he erred in assuming that Satan would choose to repent and be saved. Out of Hell there is no redemption, because the wicked hate God. God, in allowing choice and free will, does not then condemn the wicked; rather the wicked freely choose to be separate, forever, from God, thus Hell; evil is their eternal delight, the terrible paradox of free will and choice.

Henry II of England coveted Ireland and called the Council of Winchester in 1155 for this purpose, knowing the Pope’s desire to “civilize” Ireland and regulate church practice there. Henry then sent an envoy to Pope Adrian IV, an Englishman (Nicholas Brakespear), a son of a priest (no clerical marriage ban then). In 1156 the Pope granted Henry the papal bull laudabiliter, permission to invade Ireland.

Ironically then it was Roman Catholicism which initiated the conquest of Ireland, albeit via an English Pope and an English Norman king.

The High King of Ireland, Roderick O’Connor, was not even consulted and he was powerless to resist because the Pope compelled the bishops, clergy and people to accept English rule, under pain of excommunication, damnation or papal interdict.

Henry’s barons however, feared the sea route and no invasion occurred until 1169 after Dermot McMurrough’s appeal to Henry for help in 1166. Pope Alexander III enforced the edict in 1171 by ordering the bishops to meet at Cashel and accept Roman and Norman rule.

So Henry had a bloodless conquest of Ireland and was welcomed here by the bishops and military leaders alike. The people had no say in the matter. So, 740 years after Patrick came to a Celtic church, it was the Roman church and Catholicism which, paradoxically, conquered Ireland.

This became Protestant rule 400 years later when King Henry VIII converted. Patrick is the real conqueror however, when on March 17 we of all denominations joyously celebrate a British/Roman/Celtic church saint in a uniquely Irish Way!



May the love and protection
Saint Patrick can give
Be yours in abundance
As long as you live.
Your Correspondence Secretary                                      President
Frank Darcy                                                                    Ken Egan

Friday, June 15, 2012

Celtic Corner - June 2012

This is a great Irish song honoring all Fathers who have passed away. But it is also a reminder to love and enjoy your father while he is still living.


The tears have all been shed now
We've said our last goodbyes
His souls been blessed
He's laid to rest
And it's now I feel alone
He was more than just a father
A teacher my best friend
He can still be heard
In the tunes we shared
When we play them on our own
I never will forget him
For he made me "what I am"
Though he may be gone
Memories linger on
And I miss him, the old man
As a boy he'd take me walking
By mountain field and stream
And he showed me things
not known to kings
And secret between him and me
Like the colors of the pheasant
As he rises in the dawn
And how to fish and make a wish
Beside the Holly Tree
I thought he'd live forever
He seemed so big and strong
But the minutes fly
And the years roll by
For a father and a son
And suddenly when it happened
There was so much left unsaid
No second chance
To tell him thanks
For everything he's done

"Lá na n-Aithreacha Sona"(Happy Fathers Day)

Your Corres Secretary

        Frank Darcy

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Celtic Corner - May 2012

Instead of Irish History, I thought this would be more appropriate in honor of Mother’s Day.

I am sure all of you know this tune. Have your handkerchiefs out when you read it.


An Irish boy was leaving

Leaving his native home

Crossing the broad Atlantic

Once more he wished to roam

And as he was leaving his mother

While standing on the Quay

He threw his arms around her waist

And this to her did say.


"A mother's love is a blessing

No matter where you roam

Keep her while she's living

You'll miss her when she's gone

Love her as in childhood

When feeble, old, and grey

For you'll never miss a mother's love

'Til she's buried beneath the clay"


And as the years grow onward

I'll settle down in life

And I'll choose a nice young colleen

And take her for my wife

And as the kids grow older

They'll play around my knee

And I'll teach them the very same lesson                       

That my mother taught to me


"A mother's love is a blessing

No matter where you roam

Keep her while she's living

You'll miss her when she's gone

Love her as in childhood

When feeble, old, and grey

For you'll never miss a mother's love

'Til she's buried beneath the clay"


Happy Mother's Day! (Lá an Mháthair faoi shona dhuit!)
Your Correspondence Secretary

        Frank Darcy


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Celtic Corner - April 2012

The Rising and Holy Week

The week leading up to Easter Sunday is a preeminent one for Christians all over the world. In Ireland, it has long been associated with the prayers, rituals and particular services that herald the most important Sunday in the Christian calendar.

As Easter arrives this year, the week also acts as an unofficial beginning of the spring, Easter Sunday being the season’s unofficial flowering.

There was more than praying and looking forward to the improving weather in Ireland 96 years ago this week.

While most Irish people were going about their normal preparations during what Holy Week , some others were contemplating a war. The Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army we putting together final preparations for a fight that most of them knew they could not win, at least in the short run. The plan was to strike for Irish freedom at an hour when the British Empire was locked in a do-or-die struggle with the rival empires of continental Europe.

The idea was to seize strategic locations around the county, most especially in Dublin, and to hold out in the hope of a more general uprising of the population, aid from Germany, Irish America, indeed any source that took the view that Ireland had a right to her freedom no less so than any nation.

For those of a more religious persuasion, and there were more than a few in the leadership ranks of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in particular, there had to have been a sense that the planned insurrection was equivalent to a resurrection of the entire Irish people, the living and the “dead generations” as the Proclamation would state.

Holy Week in 1916 was off to a bad start from an Irish nationalist perspective. And it started badly in New York where U.S. agents raided the office of an Irish American agent and uncovered details of Irish American efforts to foster and aid a rising.

The week proceeded badly for the Irish leadership after the New York seizure. The Aud, a ship carrying guns from Germany was scuttled in Cork Harbor on Good Friday after being intercepted by a British patrol vessel. Subsequently, the situation grew more confused. With the arrest of Irish Leaders, Roger Casement and Austin Stack in addition to the loss of the arms, the military council of the IRB was advised against an immediate armed rising.

Planned maneuvers by volunteers on Easter Sunday itself were cancelled by Eoin MacNeill after he learned of the loss of the Aud and the arrests of the key leaders. This decision has a particular effect outside Dublin and would result in the capital being the focal point for virtually all that would follow in Easter Week.

For those who would face the wrath of the world’s greatest military power, Easter Sunday would be a day of more than the usual reflection. For sure, many were aware that they would not survive, though they doubtless hoped and prayed. It’s unlikely that too many in the Irish ranks were thinking in terms of some “blood sacrifice,” the label that has been pinned hard to Padraic Pearse’s name in recent times.

The essence of the human condition is hope. It comes before despair. The men and women of 1916 hoped, and hoped hard.

As we all know, the events that followed Holy Week would be anything but holy in nature though with the passing of time, the Easter Rising would be elevated to the status of something sacred in the great Irish narrative.

Nevertheless, there has been varying and often colliding interpretations of the Rising over the intervening 96 years though most recently there have been signs of more of a balance being achieved in how the events of Easter 1916 are interpreted and remembered.

It can take the passing of 96 years to achieve such, or perhaps 100 hundred years. But regardless, we remember anew each and every year the Easter of the war they dared call great.

This great event, the 1916 Rising is celebrated in Newark every Easter Sunday with a procession from Military Park to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where there is an Irish Mass Celebration.

A breakfast follows at McGoverns Tavern.

Cáisc Shona Dhuit

Happy Easter

Your Corres Secretary

Frank Darcy

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celtic Corner - March 2012


During the Civil War, the Irish Brigade was among the most celebrated units in Mr.Lincoln’s Army, and Irish Americans won more medals of honor than any other ancestral or ethnic group from the North. It is common to assert that the Irish-American contribution to the Union cause showed mainstream America that Irish Catholics were as American as any Anglo-Protestant. That’s true, to an extent. When the war was over and thousands of Irish Americans Fenians turned their attention to an invasion of British Canada, mainstream America looked the other way or openly encouraged them. The notion of hundreds of armed Irish-American militias drilling openly in the streets of New York would have been unthinkable in the 1850’s. By 1866 however, New Yorkers did little to discourage the Fenian movement from operating in the city and moving ahead with its war plans. In that sense, Irish Americans did achieve a level of acceptance and even admiration. The 14th amendment’s guarantee of equal protection for naturalized citizens, passed after the war, was another sign that native born America understood the debt it owed to immigrant soldiers, particularly the Irish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy for the Irish in America. As memories of the war faded and the nation plunged into an economic depression after 1873, nativism returned to New York and other northern cities. Civic elites in Boston and New York sought to do away with universal suffrage because they believed the immigrant poor-meaning, for the most part Irish Catholics, were incapable of making informed, educated choices in the ballot box. When the movement failed, reformers pursued another veiled anti-immigrant agenda, demanding civil service reform in order to deny immigrants access to public sector jobs. Both William R. Grace, the first Irish Catholic mayor of New York and Patrick Collins, the first Irish Catholic congressman from Massachusetts, faced substantial nativist opposition in their campaigns of 1880 and 1882, respectively. Elite newspapers portrayed Grace, an affluent Irish immigrant who built a shipping empire, as an agent of the pope who was intent on the destruction of public schools. There were whispers-if you can believe this- that he wasn’t really a citizen. The “birther” movement is not a new phenomenon. Seen from the perspective of the Gilded Age, and even into the 20th Century, it’s clear that while the Civil War did allow Irish Americans to win a measure of acceptance, it was spotty at best. The war did not kill off the Know Nothings, as so many people assume. The Know Nothing movement simply evolved to a more genteel form of prejudice. So for Irish America, the Civil War certainly is worth remembering. But it may not be a cause for celebration.

                                  Your Corres Secretary & Parade Chairman, Frank Darcy

                                                       Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

                                                                  Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February 2012 - Celtic Corner (REPEAT)


Thought it would be nice to repeat last year’s corner.

St.Patrick’s Day is just ahead of us, so who is St.Pat and what is all the hype about?

St.Patrick’s Day (La Fheile Padraig) is first a religious holiday celebrated on March 17th. He is also the most commonly recognized saint in Ireland. This day is also celebrated all over the world. Historians say Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century into a wealthy Romano British Family. Patrick’s father & grandfather were Deacons in the church. Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish Raiders. He was held captive in County Mayo as a slave. Pat escaped fleeing to the coast, boarding a ship, he returned to Britain. Patrick felt that God wanted him to return to Ireland, so he studied to be a priest then became a bishop and in the year 432 he returned to Ireland. His mission was to Christianize the Irish from their native Polytheism. Patrick used many props in his teaching methods such as; to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity he used the shamrock. After 40 years of teaching, he died on March 17th in the year 470. There were many other missions from Rome to Ireland but Patrick endured as the principle champion of Irish Christianity. St.Patrick created this great faith in the Irish people. I would guess God gave him insight into the struggles that this great Celtic Nation would have to endure. The Irish always managing to keep their faith, were persecuted, jailed, hung, starved, kicked off their land and out of their country. So goes the old Irish Saying “Keep the Faith”. Whether it was the Irish that stayed in their own Ireland or were forced to Immigrate to other countries, they were united & proud. The Irish first marched in Boston on March 18, 1737. This was the first Irish Parade in the world. New York’s Parade was March 17, 1762, Ireland’s first parade was 1931 in Dublin, and New Jersey’s first parade was 1936 in Newark. So why did we march? We did it not just for the religious aspect of the day or the fun of the day, but we also marched in remembrance of the tough days. The many Bloody Sundays gone by and the injustices still taking place in Ireland & the rest of the world today. In the early days, unity got us jobs, acceptance, Political & Labor positions and don’t forget the Irish were decorated with more U.S. Medals of honor than any other country in the world. In recent years our proud tradition of marching lost a little spark. .In these days of our diverse nation, let us show that this Celtic Nation is alive & well in Woodbridge. Let’s get back to the old tradition, March behind our Grand Marshall, Sean Keaveney, a Great Irishman, Military Man, Community Activist and Club Member. Don’t forget that our parade is dedicated to the Military and Vets. Our Grand Marshall is a 25 year member of the Armed Forces.

                                      Your Corres Secretary & Parade Chairman, Frank Darcy

May the love & Protection Saint Patrick can give, Be yours in abundance as long as you live

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Celtic Corner - January 2012

Celtic Corner:

To continue the Irish Famine:

Irish and American Voices:

Professor Dennis Clark, an Irish-American historian, wrote in The Irish in Philadelphia that the famine was “the culmination of generations of neglect, misrule and repression. It was an epic of English colonial cruelty and inadequacy. For the landless cabin dwellers it meant emigration or extinction. The dimensions of the calamity can hardly be delineated by simple statistics. England had presided over an epochal disaster too monstrous and too impersonal to be a mere product of individual ill will or the fiendish outcome of a well planned conspiracy. It was something worse: the cumulative antagonism and corruption of the English ruling class was visited with crushing intensity upon a long enfeebled foe. It was as close to genocide as colonialism would come in the nineteenth century.” About the 50,000 evictions took place during the Famine, Clark Wrote: “The British government’s insistence on “the absolute rights of landlords” to evict farmers and their families so they could raise cattle and sheep was a process “as close to ‘ethnic cleansing’ as any Balkan war ever enacted.”

Professor James S. Donnelly Jr., a historian at the University of Wisconsin, wrote the following in Landlord and Tenant in Nineteenth Century Ireland: “I would draw the following broad conclusion: at a fairly early stage of the Great Famine the government’s abject failure to stop or even slow down the clearances (evictions) contributed in a major way to enshrining the idea of English state sponsored genocide in Irish popular mind.  Or perhaps one should say in the Irish mind, for this was a notion that appealed to many educated and discriminating men and women, and not only to the revolutionary minority.”

But Donnelly concludes otherwise: “And it is also my contention that while genocide was not in fact committed, what happened during and as a result of the clearances had the look of genocide to a great many Irish.”