On today, St. Patrick’s Day, it is not so much St. Patrick whom we should honor as his Catholic children, those people who kept the faith through the centuries. Let me take you on a brief tour of those centuries.
In all them there has been just one English pope, that was Adrian IV. In 1155 he gave Ireland to England, which was an inappropriate thing to do, because England’s King Henry II had caused St. Tomas a Becket to be cut down at the altar.
Moving ahead five centuries, in 1649 England took the head off their King Charles I, giving power to Oliver Cromwell whom they called their Lord Protector. He was, a Puritan who saw his victory as a triumph over Catholicism. When the followers of the dead King Charles I took refuge in Ireland, Cromwell pursued them. Pushing over the defending walls in the city of Drogheda, Cromwell had his men put to death everyone there: two thousand soldiers and all the civilians.
The people at Wexford to the south, horrified by the massacre of Drogheda, had their leader, David Sinnott, asking Cromwell for surrender terms that would allow them to remain Catholic. Cromwell rejected that, going on with the destruction of Wexford and its people. I feel, that since those people refused to abandon their faith, we should honor them as martyrs, maybe wearing red vestments today. I read an account of Cromwell’s soldiers methodically cutting down three hundred women and children who had gathered around a standing crucifix in the center of Wexford.
A decendant of that David Sinnott was mayor of Wexford sixty-five years ago. His son, Father Michael Sinnott, has done great work protecting the gypsies whom the Irish call “Travelling people.”
I don’t feel that admiration for the Irish should lead us turn against the English. We owe much to them. If they had surrendered to the Nazi Luftwaffe seventy years ago Hitler’s Nazis might have gone on conquer even the U.S.