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Our Personal and Social Responsibilities

Author: Patrick Augustine Sheehan

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  1. [Details to follow].
    Canon Sheehan on the Internet
  1. Herman Joseph Heuser, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: the story of an Irish parish priest as told chiefly by himself in books, personal memoirs, and letters (New York 1917).
  2. Arthur Coussens. P. A. Sheehan, zijn leven en zijn werken (Brugge/Bruges 1923).
  3. Michael P. Linehan, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: Priest, Novelist, Man of Letters (Dublin 1952).
  4. James O'Brien (ed.), The Collected Letters of Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, 1883–1913 (Wells 2013).
  5. James O'Brien, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile 1852–1913: Outlines for Literary Biography (Wells 2013). [Bibliographical references 205-11.]
  6. Joachim Fischer, 'Canon Sheehan und die deutsche Kultur', In: Joachim Fischer, Das Deutschlandbild der Iren 1890–1939, (Heidelberg: Winter 2000).
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. Our Personal and Social Responsibilities in The Irish Monthly: A Magazine of General Literature, Ed. Matthew Russell SJ. , Dublin, Irish Jesuit Province (May 1899, June 1899) volume 27number 311, 312page 225–233; 292–304


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Created: By Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852–1913) (1899)

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Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: E890000-007

Our Personal and Social Responsibilities: Author: Patrick Augustine Sheehan

*An Address to the Limerick Catholic Institute

On a certain tombstone, laid over the remains of an ancient knight in the North of England, these words are written beneath the epitaph: —
‘I shall not pass this way again.’
I believe it is only a pithy paraphrase from the Book of Job; but it is a pregnant saying, and I take it as a text. Generations will live after us, as generations have lived before us; but we shall not pass this way again. Our life's journey is our one and only experience of this world. No words can paint the seriousness and the sublimity of the thought. No great thinker, in the ranks of sacred or profane literature, has ever faced it, without putting his fingers on his lips, and pausing to realise its awful significance. This little planet of ours is, for the moment, the theatre of the universe; and our little lives the drama in which the Great Unseen are so deeply interested. If we merely consider the rapidity with which scene follows scene, and actor succeeds actor, before the headlights of the Heavens, the play and the performers are absolutely insignificant; but, if we consider that the drama is but a rehearsal for eternity, it assumes an aspect of momentous significance.

    1. Heard are the voices,
      Heard are the sages,
      The worlds and the Ages,
      Choose well: your choice is
      Brief, but yet endless.


      Here eyes do regard you
      From eternity's stillness,
      Here is all fulness,
      Ye brave! to reward you,
      Work! and dispair not!1
It seems then that our lives are of supreme importance; and that therefore there must be a tremendous personal responsibility resting on each of us; and as souls are more than science, I thought, when I had the honour of being invited hither by your learned President, that for once, I would let binary stars, and Röntgen rays, and wireless telegraphy alone; and say a few words that might strengthen you, and perhaps, inspire you to make your lives worthy, by making you conscious of their great significance. For to vary the metaphor, we are but ‘Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing.’2 and may this solitary voice, echoing over dark and turbulent seas, be a voice of strength and encouragement to you.

Now, there is one instinct of our natures, which, if we follow wisely, cannot lead us too far astray. I said, if we follow wisely; because if we follow it unwisely, it means wrecked hopes, shattered lives, disappointed ambitions, crushed hearts, and dishonoured graves. This instinct is our craving for happiness, the universal and unquenchable quest of our race. It is the one thing, of which we are ever dreaming. The young look forward to this Land of Promise; the middle-aged seek it frantically, although they begin to think it a desert mirage: the old are privileged to look upon it only ere they die. How many enter into perfect happiness? Not many. They move forward to enter its shining gates: only to find, a desert. The miner rushing over snowy crevasses to Klondyke, the emigrant leaving behind his happy home for the speculative gains at Kimberley or Coolgardie; the young professional man at home, straining after a lucrative practice, or the blue ribbon of the Bench; the shopkeeper, dreaming of leisure and a marine villa; the statesman, striving for fame, the orator clamouring for applause — all these, to say nothing of the hapless victims of the marriage markets and mammon marts of the world, dream of happiness; and to all it is as elusive and as visionary as the Heaven of Islam, or the paradise of the eater of opium. And


all these athletes for life's prizes divide themselves into two classes — : the successful ones, and the failures; and both are unhappy, the one class, from attained desires, that are ashes in the eating; the other, from the eternal hunger after desires that are unattained. It would be difficult to say whether the briefless barrister or the over-worked Q.C. is the more unhappy; whether the great doctor, that attends on queens is a whit happier than when he was an apothecary's apprentice compounding poisons; whether the peasant is not better off than his landlord, and the hind than his master; and whether the whole see-saw of social life is not, after all, a perfect equilibrium of happiness and unhappiness swung from the hands of the Omniscient. But then, there must be a flaw somewhere, if gratified ambition, dreams that are realised, and hopes that have been fulfilled, do not bring this happiness in their train; and perhaps, you may be grateful to me, if I point out this flaw, and try to mend it, by one or two principles that will help you to form a correct idea of your personal responsibilities.

The first principle is this, that your happiness is to be found, not in your circumstances, but in yourselves. And the one grand mistake of humanity lies in supposing that we change ourselves when we change our circumstances. Hence it is that men are for ever thinking of improving the mere accidents and outer coverings of life, and neglecting the one matter of supreme importance — that which lies within themselves. I do not agree for a moment with the ridicule cast on this principle by that unchristian pseudo-philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, when he says: ‘Know thyself? Too long has that poor self of thine tormented thee. Know thy work, and do it.’ The latter phrase is quite right. The former question is unsound and unphilosophical; and I venture to say that half the miseries of mankind, personal, social, and political, are directly traceable to the unhappy forgetfulness or neglect of the great Socratic maxim. And if at the expense of a little Greek and Latin, and even of science, our children were taught the supreme lesson of self-knowledge, self reverence, and self-control, the world would not be so full, as it is to-day, of souls unhappy enough to constitute another circle of the Dantean Inferno.

Let me prove this. The seat of pleasure and of pain is, as we know, the mind. It is the receptacle of all sensations. The


perfume of a flower, the waves of some rapturous melody, the glory of summer seas, touch our senses; but do not remain there. The gentle visitants knock at the door, and pass into the vestibule of sight or smell or hearing; and immediately, the servant sense telephones up to the master, mind, and it stoops down and admits the gratification. So, too, with pain. The odour of asafoetida, the harsh shriek of a siren on a warship, the sight of deformity or disease strikes the senses, and they wire up to the master, and he declares his pain and dissatisfaction. And when the humane doctor wishes to neutralise the necessary pain of an operation, whilst he is hacking nerves and veins and muscles, he sends the mind to sleep with his anaestheties; and lo! there is no pain. The passive body may protest by involuntary shrinking under the scalpel; but there is no physical agony, and no mental torture, because the master, mind, is drowned in poppied sleep. Hence, in times of old, the mercy, which we no longer know with all our boasts of civilisation and humanity, that drugged with myrrh the senses of these who were passing to execution; and even to-day in China, criminals about to be executed, are allowed the privilege of opium, that they may pass to a painless death. Now, it is clear that if the mind be the centre and source and subject of pain or pleasure, our happiness depends not on external circumstances, which merely knock at the outer doors of the senses, but on the constitution, and the phases of our feelings and our thoughts. It also follows that, if we can exclude from our minds all painful and humiliating and irritating thoughts, and if we can fill the mind with all pleasant and noble and inspiring thoughts, we shall have moved far forward towards the goal of happiness. Can we, then, control our minds and every faculty of them, as easily as an organist can pull out and close up the stops of an instrument? Can we not only suppress in a moment, every passionate feeling, every turbid desire, every unhallowed thought; but even the little worries and troubles that make life unhappy, can we, in one instant, set them aside, and successfully refuse to listen to their importunities? Certainly. The mind is as capable of discipline, as the body. Phrenologists have mapped out for us in every convolution of the brain its distinct faculty. We know the seat of memory, we know the chambers of intellect, we can place our fingers on the lobes of diverse sensations. Here is the coil, from which Shakspere flashed the electricity of his great poetic genius;


and here is the exact battery of nerve power whence Newton projected his theory of gravitation. Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, what we all experience, that the greater and nobler the thought, the higher you have to drag it, until it touches expression in the very highest attics of the brain, as the highest notes of music are the sweetest and the most far-reaching. Now, if all these faculties are under the direct control of ourselves, that is, of our immortal spirits, we should understand that, by careful training and discipline, it is perfectly possible to suspend the operation of the faculties by one act of the will, and refuse to accept their protests, their suggestions, or their complaints. What a tremendous power and privilege! What a complete and easy destruction, not only of worry and fretfulness over disappointments, but even of the dread passions of envy and jealousy, of foolish striving after the unattainable, the mordant remorse for a past that is irreclaimable.

But this, you will say, will lead to Oriental passivism and fatalism? Do you want us to become fakirs, like the Thibetans and Hindoos, until our finger-nails become as the claws of eagles, and the birds can build their nests in our hair? If happiness consists in the exclusion of all thought, there is an end to progress and advancement. True, but we don't stop here. We move a step forward on the road to happiness, by filling our minds, which will never admit either complete rest or complete vacuum, with all kinds of high and holy thoughts. We shall enjoy all the simple pleasures of life, just as our Great Father hath given them; and all the intellectual pleasures of life such as the kings of thought have revealed them. Here there is no necessity either of great wealth or of great learning. The purest pleasures of life are at the back of all. And they lie under our hands to touch them, and beneath our eyes to behold them. Let me exemplify this by a story. It was many years ago in Devonshire when I made the acquaintance of one, who was not only a priest, but a philosopher. At least, he was a perfectly happy man; and if that is not philosophy, I should like to know what is. He had eighty pounds a year, a presbytery, about large enough for a doll, and a bijou church, built from designs by Pugin. That was all. No! I am wrong. He had God's great sea, stretching from the threshold of his door to the far infinities. Well, one day, he took me for a stroll in a magnificent park, studded with all kinds


of noble trees, and embellished with artificial lakes, fountains, and cascades. Deer lay under the trees, and vast herds thronged the meadows. The house, a perfect replica of some Louis Quatorze chateau, was perched at the summit of a series of terraces, these latter laid -out in superb parterres. The interior of the mansion, was quite in keeping with the grounds. France, Italy, and even Greece, had been put under requisition to suit the costly tastes of the master. ‘Who is the proprietor of this splendid place?’ I asked.
‘I am,’ he said, without moving a muscle.
Then I thought that this good priest was possibly a nobleman in disguise, who had given up all things for Christ, quite a possible thing in England, and I was silent.

‘I don't mean,’ he said, after a pause, ‘to deceive you. The legal dominion of this paradise is not mine. The natural title and usufruct is mine. For ten years I have come here every day, with my books. Here, I spend hours in the keenest enjoyment of all these beauties. Flowers and trees, deer and kine, lakes and swans, pictures and marbles are all mine — mine to see and enjoy. The legal parchment is in London. The legal owner sees the place once in ten years. He is now in Egypt. What could he give me that I have not, except gout and a bad conscience?’

    1. Cleon, true, hath acres many; but the landscape, I;
      All the charm to me it renders, money cannot buy;
      Cleon hears no anthemis ringing in the sea or sky;
      Nature sings to me for ever, earnest listener, I.
      State for state with all attendants, who would change? Not I.3

I thought of the story told by the late A. K. H. B. of the Duke, who, looking out from his palace upon the beautiful reaches of the Thames, exclaimed in a tone of despair: ‘Oh! that dreadful river! always running, running, and never will run away!’ and the shepherd, in his mountain cot in Scotland — , five miles away from a human habitation, who declared, that when his day's work is done, his supper eaten, and Chambers's Journal in his hands he does not envy the Duke of Argyle. Well, all! this is in our power, too; and we, Irishmen, are specially blessed in having for our home one of the fairest spots in God's fair world. But we need an interpreter. We must look through the eyes of others before we can see; we must wait


until others translate for us the strange mystic language of nature. How many of us listened year after year, in the springtime to the singing of the skylark; but never knew his music until Shelley interpreted it for us? How many of us were buffeted by the west wind but never knew what it breathed on us, until we read that noble ode of the same great poet! Men stared at Mont Blanc for years, never seeing its majesty, until Coleridge wrote his Hymn before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamonix. And generations have listened without articulate emotion to the falling of the cataracts of the sea, until Tennyson, in that immortal lyric reminded us of what it meant — the yearning for ‘the touch of the vanished hand, and the sound of the voice that is still.’ We need, therefore, interpreters of nature; and the two interpreters, whom I should recommend most earnestly to a literary society, like your own, are Ruskin in prose, and Wordsworth in poetry. Of the former, I am left but little to say, for you have seen how his genius and his mission have lately been handled by Mr. William P. Coyne, F.R.U.I., in Dublin, and by the priests who spoke subsequently. I shall only say, that it was a happy day for the world, when John Ruskin turned aside from being a Reformer of Art to become a preacher on morals; when he made himself the protagonist against that dread materialism and mammon-worship, which, with the usual accompaniments of vulgarity, are the chief characteristics of the British Philistines of to-day. But you shall never know the beauty of running waters, or sailing clouds, of sea and shore, of mountain mist, or ‘shadowy-pencilled valleys,’ of sunrise or sunset, until Ruskin shows them to you. His poetic precursor, Wordsworth, is to my mind, the tenderest and safest guide in that great department of poetry, where if sages have been high-priests, satyrs, alas! have wantoned. I cannot share in the idolatry of Shakspere, as a moralist, though as artist and dramatist, he may be unrivalled. Browning lies on the shelves of scholars; and Keats and Tennyson are delicate voluptuaries, who saw surfaces and painted them. But the large luminous mind of Wordsworth penetrated into the recesses of nature and he laid his ear to her breast, and heard her heart beating. I know no better book for the study or the seaside, for the river walk or the friendly conference, than Wordsworth's poems. I cannot share, but I can appreciate the enthasiasm of another graceful, gentle poet, Matthew Arnold, when he said that


he had no other idea of an earthly heaven, except a long holiday, free from care and labour, with the companionship of Wordsworth's poems. Then, you must have a science — not the science — ‘that peeps and botanises upon a mother's grave,’ but the science that shows you what God's universe is — the infinitely great, and the infinitely little. And there is no science half so well adapted to this end as the tremendous and overwhelming revelations of astronomy. Before these silent dioramas of the heavens man's mind sinks down first to an understanding of his own nothingness, then rises up to an idea of his majesty, then falls down prone in adoration before the awful face of God.

But all this needs education? Yes! Intermediate or University education? No. Self-education? Yes! And let it be remembered, there is none other! The final result, even of university education, is to teach men how to train themselves. The greatest professors in Oxford, Cambridge, Königsberg, or Berlin, can only teach their graduates what to learn, and how to learn. The real work belongs to the students themselves. And, the real result of all kinds of successful education, without which distinctions, gold medals and fellowships have no more intrinsic value than the medals of veterans, is the acquisition of a taste for reading, I don't care how desultory that reading may be; the passion for self-improvement, and the faculty for distinguishing between a taste for the froth and foam of so much contemporaneous literature, and the desire, if you would be strong men, of feeding your minds on great and inspiring thought, the marrow of giants. And if ever the day shall come, when the artisan in his workshop, the labourer in his cottage, the clerk in his shop, the student in his attic, shall understand that the legacies of all the ages are theirs, and that beneath their hands are the priceless treasures, garnered for them by the intellectual kings of our race, and that this means the ecstacy of noble thinking, then we shall have moved forward towards that national felicity, which, after all, is our real prosperity. Here is our second step forward.

You will have noticed that I have not introduced the sacred name of religion here, because I take it for granted that we all acknowledge this as the necessary constituent of all human felicity; and I am speaking in the porch, not in the temple, were wiser heads and more eloquent lips can, and do tell you,


the secrets of Divine philosophy. But, neither in the exclusion of painful thoughts, nor even in the acquisition of noble thoughts, shall we find perfect peace. It is the ideal life, of course, after which the world has ever sought — the life of lettered ease and calm culture — the very antithesis to that stormy life, where, ‘like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggles to get his head above the other.’ But it won't do for the strong, young athletes whom I am addressing. Life is a process of renewal, of increased effort, and ever-changing activities. Stagnation is repugnant to all our ideas of existence. Even in the dreamy, languid, somnolent East, men were obliged to invent some outlet for the suppressed activities of this life; and hence they devised the doctrine of re-incarnation. They called life, rest; and eternity, a succession of everchanging activities. We make life the season of work and effort; and in eternity we seek for rest. Let us see if there be work under our hands to seek and accomplish; and let me point to two urgent necessities, where we have to conquer both our heredity and environments — two material difficulties which hinder the efficiency, and circumscribe the utility of the great spiritual mission, which, I believe, to be the inheritance of our race. It would be well for us, of course, if we could make this land of ours a lotus-land, which, according to the Breton legend, ‘was anchored by God with chains of diamonds in seas the sailors do not know. When the waters touched it they lost all bitterness, and for a circle of seven leagues grew sweet as milk to the lips. The isle was hidden from all eyes by a fog none could penetrate, but a peaceful light was in the centre. There, in the form of great white birds, flew the soul of predestined saints, and from thence, at the first signal, they came forth to teach the world.’ Alas! the fog lifted, and the strangers came; and to-day we are confronted with the problem of how to save for civilisation our country, — our racial characteristics, and even our religion. The problem for youthful activities is, how to conserve and advance the material prosperity of our race without allowing it to degenerate into mammon-worship, and so that it may be an effectual help in promoting our spiritual and intellectual destiny. This I call your social responsibility.



Our Personal and Social Responsibilities

We are made, then, by historical tradition, by force of circumstances, and by the experience of unrelenting injustice, essentially a fighting race. Let us remember that we are still on the tented field; that the fight which has lasted longer than Trojan or Punic wars is not yet over; and that, if the historian of the future shall write the history of Ireland, as unconquered and unconquerable, he cannot do so, unless we, in the dawn of the twentieth century, take up the tradition of seven hundred years, and with one great rally, wrest from the outstretched hands of Destiny the palms and laurels for which our fathers bled. Now the battlefield is no place for slumber; and the mattress and the pillow are not part of the equipment of a soldier on the field. Let us therefore, have our watchwords, and our sentries posted, and let us sleep with the arms by our sides, lest the enemy steal a march and surprise us while we slumber. And lest you should think there was no cause for vigilance, let us see the trend of current events.

You, who read the English papers, which voice English opinion, must have noticed lately the tone of exultant triumph that was elicited by the Spanish defeat in Cuba. The cry went forth, and was echoed insolently: The Latin races are going! Decadence, and prompt final extinction await the Catholic races of Western Europe. Santiago and Fashoda closed the history of Spain and France; and Italy, bankrupt and insolvent, is but awaiting the political coup de grâce, that will sink her into the pleasure ground and museum of the conquering and dominant races. The Slav in the East, the Teuton in the midst, and the Anglo-Saxon in the West of Europe, are the future masters of the world, and the future pioneers of progress; and the old, proud, Celtic races, the races of chivalry and conquest, the founders of the arts and sciences, the children of the crusaders, the legatees of priceless canvasses and marbles, are to pass away, and be submerged in the wave of brute force and materialism that is now sweeping over the world. How far your sympathies go out to these kindred


races of ours, linked to us by the commingling of blood by birth and battle, I know not; but it may touch us more closely to learn that we, too, are threatened; and if it is folly to exaggerate danger, it is madness to ignore it. True, we may believe, and with all the best thinkers of Europe, we do believe, that the world is not going to write ‘Finis’ just yet on the glorious historical pages of the lands of the Cid and of Charlemagne. Human history, evolved by the puny hands of men, is controlled by a larger power. Once, the English flag floated over the walls of Orleans, and the sands of Calais. But, less than a hundred years ago, French armies were concentrated on the same coast for the invasion of Britain; and if we have seen the tricolor of France dipped in the dust before the mobilised fleet at Spithead, the wheel may turn again, spun by the higher power, and the final conquest be placed as far away, and rendered as problematical as ever. But how does all this concern us? And why, says the lotus-eater do you trouble me with phantoms of fears for what shall never arise? But do we not see, that the inevitable course of human events must precipitate the armies of England on Ireland? I do not mean her red-coats and her Maxims; but I mean her commercial hordes, driven from the markets of the world by modern competition, and thrown by the stress of circumstances to find in Ireland, not only a market for English manufacture, but a vast broad field for enterprise and industry, where the native population, through the lack of initiative, or lack of education and training, have only been able to earn a precarious living, eked out by the charities of the world.

    1. Slowly comes a hungry people, like a lion, drawing nigher,
      Glares at one that nods and blinke behind a slowly-dying fire.4

Who are the hungry people? And who are these that nod and blink? You have only to cast your eyes around you, and see. In the agricultural districts, Englishmen and Scotchmen are rapidly realising fortunes, where the native peasantry earned a pittance; and in our great cities, enterprising foreigners are swallowing up commercial wealth, that lay at our own doors, but which we were powerless to touch. Simultaneously, vast tracts of land are passing from the people into the hands of landlords and graziers; and by a singular paradox, our people, banished to


the States and Colonies, accumulate rapid fortunes by the very shrewdness and intelligence, which lay dormant and unproductive at home. Meanwhile, Irish hands and brains are building up the British empire in every remotest corner of the world; and Irish intellects are able to think deeply and wisely for every land and race but their own. And yet, what Irishman is there, whose eyes are not filmed with tears, and whose heart is not saddened with regretful love, when he thinks of his Isle of Destiny, washed by the western seas, and beaten and buffeted by the storms of centuries, and the blows of fate that appears to be relentless and unforgiving. Reason as we may, with all the light of modern advancement and modern selfishness, we cannot rid ourselves of that abiding and eternal love which we feel for our common mother. Go where we please, reason as we will, our thoughts turn to the motherland, from whose womb we sprang, and at whose breast we were nurtured. Great philosophers may argue on cosmopolitan lines and say: ‘We are all one race and we have all a common heritage. Why limit our interests to one little span of earth, of homely features, and barren of mines and minerals and to one race, whose history has been a history of sorrow and defeat? Our sympathies are universal, and embrace every race, even the flattened heads and yellow faces, that make for the progress of mankind.’ It won't do. Back we come from philosophy to affection; and purple mountain, brown bog, and granite shore loom up through the mist of tears to waken recollection, or enkindle an enthusiasm, as passionate as it is undying. From the swan-song of Columba as he left his own Derry hills, down to the wailing threnodies of Clarence Mangan; and from the dying cry of your own Sarsfield to the battle speech of Meagher, under the dread escarpments of Fredericksburg, it is all the same — Ireland! and Ireland! and Ireland! the home of our heroes, and the cemetery of our saints! the haunting spirit of our dreams, and the everlasting burden of our waking hours!

A few months ago, I stood in the midst of the world's showplace — the lakes and mountains of Switzerland. All around me, Nature had tossed up the earth's surface into fantastic forms of crags and mountains; and here were pre-Adamite glaciers in the clefts of the hills, and here were sea-green lakes in the hollows of the valleys, It was a picture from the drop scene or back scene of an Italian opera; but I confess I felt as in a prison of granite,


granite rocks pressing down in their awful desolation upon the spirit, and only a little square of blue overhead, serrated by the sharp pinnacles of snow-clad hills. And the first free breath I drew was when I passed out of the prison, out into the glorious freedom of the French horizon, and the long receding vistas on the Genevan lake. And I said, we have something better than this in Ireland. We have purple mountains with their infinite varieties of mist and shade; we have lakes as fair as Lucerne or Zurich; and above all, we have, surrounding our shores, vast cliffs, known only to the penguins and the gulls, and beneath the infinity of the sea! I could not see how Switzerland, the land whose mountains are the walls of a prison, and whose lakes are pools of dead water, could be the land of freedom; and I could see how the spirit, that haunts the hills and shores of Ireland, must be of necessity, a spirit of liberty and expansion. And yet, wherever you travelled in Switzerland, its nationality, untainted but in one particular, that of language, was the predominant feature. The spell of the legendary William Tell was everywhere. Here is the place where he leaped from Gesler's boat, and we have erected a chapel, where Mass is said; here is the place where he pierced the apple on his child's head with an arrow; here, springing from the waters of Lake Lucerne is the monolith pillar, erected to the honour of Schiller, who immortalized in his drama, our great national hero. Here, in the vast palatial hotels, our peasant girls wear the national costume, varied from a score of cantons; and here, in the hand of every young Switzer is an Alpine staff, and in his hat is a sprig of Edelweiss. And, here, in the lonely valley of Andermatt is a camp of Swiss artillery; and down the awful gorges where Russian, and Austrian, and Frenchman clambered for the deadly embrace of battle, you shall hear the booming of Swiss cannon; for this land is ours; and if we are the mercenaries of Europe, at least, our country is our own; and, yet, Tell is but a legend; and I would not give one page of Irish history, tear-stained and blood blackened, for all the myths and romances that imagination has woven about the land of the Alps and the lakes. Well, then, what remains for us to do? It is quite clear that however nice chivalry may read in the pages of Sir W. Scott, neither chivalry nor enthusiasm will help the cause of Ireland at present. We saw the other day how a vast army of Soudanese,


intoxicated by fanaticism and a love of glory, were mowed down by the machine guns of the Sirdar. Chivalry won't stop the mouths of cannon, or escape the bursting of shells. But fas est ab hoste doceri. Let us take a lesson from the enemy. Nothing excites so much astonishment and admiration as the silent, stealthy dogged persistence with which England pursues her career of universal conquest. No noise, no boasting, no defeat. Twice was she beaten by the Boers, at Majuba Hill and at Krugersdorp. Now, she is drawing a ring of steel around the devoted Transvaal, and — time will tell. Her army was swallowed up in the desert ten years ago under Hicks Pasha. Then, with patient persistence, she commenced her railway from Cairo to Khartoum; and we know the rest. Now, here at home, we have to face the same science, the same courage, the same perseverance. English capital is invited into Ireland. Beaten back from the markets of the world, her capitalists are now finding that there is coal in Tyrone and Kilkenny, and gold in Wicklow. We don't object to see English capital flooding Ireland, but we should like to see the sluices of Irish capital also opened. Shall we be able to meet these foreigners on their own ground; and turn this new attempt at conquest into a victory for ourselves? Yes. But we must oppose science to science, enterprise to enterprise, education to education, shrewdness to shrewdness, if we don't want to see a new plantation of Ireland, and strange merchants in our cities, and the old Celtic population ‘hewers of wood, and drawers of water’ once more in their own land. An important Commission sat lately in Dublin on the subject of Intermediate Education. I cannot help feeling sorry that the evidence was limited to educational experts. A few managers of Irish banks, a few missionary priests, a few directors of great Irish companies, would have told the Commission what the Intermediate Act had done; and probably, would have told them that what we want in Ireland are classical and scientific colleges for the professions; but of far greater importance, commercial and scientific schools for the creation, the maintenance, and the success of an industrial and commercial race. The Belgian Catholics have discovered the secret. The Jesuits and the Josephites have done in ten years for Belgium by the creation of commercial schools, more than Boards and Commissions without number could do for Ireland in a century. I say, therefore, at present, we are unprepared for the


commercial invasion that must follow on British expansion, and which the London Echo has already forecast and recommended. Education, even in its crudest form has not penetrated down into the hearths and homes of our people. And yet we are not without a gleam of hope. There is a restlessness, a sublime dissatisfaction that is strangely stirring the hearts of the young men of Ireland. And our enemies are beginning to admit it. A few days ago, I read, with an upleaping of the heart the following sentence written by a British traveller on Ireland. He had journeyed from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear; and his verdict on the modern Irishman was: ‘that he had become less humorous and more dangerous.’ Thank God! The stage Irishman is passing away from reality as well as from romance; and in his place is appearing the strong, silent, determined far-seeing race, that our best thinkers have dreamed of and hoped for. These can do what they did before.

Young men of Limerick, you have already voiced the common opinion of Ireland on certain things that you deemed vital to our race. I want you to draw a long, deep breath; and then let your voice go forth again; and let it have in it the depth and volume and emphasis that will make dead bones live again. You have a right to be heard! You, who have on your streets the record of unspeakable perfidy; you, who have on your walls the record of unspeakable heroism; you, whose mighty river has passed into the deathless poetry and romance of the Irish race, you have a right to speak to Ireland! And when your voice, and the voice of your sister cities is heard, demanding union, silence, determination, in place of the barbaric strife and inarticulate rage, which, like South Sea Islanders, we employ to exorcise the evil spirits that are closing in around us, then may we hope that, at least, our country should not pass into the hands of the stranger, nor our race be swallowed up and assimilated under the dread constriction that appears always to have followed in the path of the Anglo-Saxon domination. Here is your social responsibility to your country and your race.

I have no time to-night to speak to you of the necessity of conserving our racial characteristics, especially our language. I shall content myself by saying of this latter, that I consider its extinction, partial though it be, a greater evil than penal laws or the Act of Union, and its revival a greater blessing


than even our emancipation. The Irish race would have had a different history for the past fifty years, if it had been welded, by a common language, into unbroken solidarity. And the Catholic Church in America and England, marvellous as its expansion has been under the ferment of Irish faith, would to-day have been fixed even on a firmer basis, if the Irish Catholics, like the German, had the strength and force of a national language behind them. There is no place, nor occasion for despair. What the Jews did, after they had lost their common Hebrew tongue in the Babylonian captivity; what the Germans have done to revive their language, after it had been extinguished by Frederick and Voltaire, that we can do. And if it ever does come back, may there come back with it the old, genial, Celtic spirit, instead of the Anglicised, mammon-worshipping, neo-pagan manners and customs, which in many places at home, are the chief characteristics of our race to-day.

But, addressing a Catholic society, I should feel I had been guilty of culpable omission, if I did not say one word of that undying principle, that is interwoven in our every fibre, that has animated our history, that has been the main cause of our material defeats, and of our spiritual and intellectual victories — namely, the principle of our faith. Irish Catholicism and Irish nationality are interchangeable terms. The one means the other. So true is this, that English converts to Catholicity are known to their compatriots as Irish, so completely wound up is the one idea in the other. And, on the other hand, as we well know, it is not the fact of being Irish, so much as the fact of being Catholics, that excludes our people from positions of authority and responsibility, even in their own land. However glaring may be these injustices, we cannot fail to see that in some respects, we are responsible for them. Our supineness and apathy, which we are careful to euphemise as toleration, militate against our advancement, and confirm our helotry in our own land. The result is plain, and is quite on a parallel with the inferior and subordinate conditions into which the Catholics of kindred races have fallen. We know how the entire government of Italy, much to her loss, has passed into the hands of Freemasons; we know how French Catholics tolerate the government of their country, the control of their finances, the action and guidance of the press, by Jews and their allies, the Freemasons. But we do not know how far this apathy


has carried them; and how far their institutions have passed under the control of organisations hostile to their country and their faith. Let me quote a few facts. Out of the 33,000,000 of French people, barely half a million profess Protestantism; yet out of eighty-six prefects ten are Protestants; there are a hundred Protestants in the Chamber of Deputies; there are eighty Protestants in the Senate. This is not all. All the higher officials in the Ministry of Public Instruction are Protestants; Protestant seminaries are supported by the State; Catholic seminaries are unendowed; the faculty of Protestant theology is placed at the head of the faculties in the ancient Sorbonne; and all the faculties of Catholic theology were suppressed in the same university in 1884. That is a pretty picture; and I dare say there are some, who think it reflects credit on the toleration and charity of French Catholics. To my mind, such toleration, that is, such cowardice and want of grit are only deserving of condemnation and contempt. But are we much better off at home? The late contemptuous dismissal of the Catholic claims to the higher education should teach us a lesson. Admitted by all the best minds of Great Britain and Ireland as sound in principle and safe in policy, our claims have been contemptuously spurned at the dictation of the most illiberal, and reactionary, and fanatical faction in the world. But this is only on a par with everything else. Tell me, what percentage have we of the leading departmental offices in our country? Who are the directors of our banks and railways? Who are the engineers and architects of our public boards? How many Catholic officials are connected with all legislative or executive faculties in the country? Who are the controllers of our taxes, and the final judges of our legal responsibilities? It is a question worth answering; and when we do answer it, perhaps we may spare for ourselves a little of that contempt, which we lavish on Catholics abroad. But, here I am met by two objections. One I cannot answer, as I should wish; the other finds an easy reply. When I am told that young Catholics, coming out unfledged from our Catholic schools, are unqualified to occupy prominent positions in our banks and boards; that they may know, indeed, a little about Herodotus and Pindar; but a bank wants book-keeping, and a knowledge of the fluctuations of stocks and shares; when I am told, as I have been told, that leading institutions, founded and supported by Catholic money, are


obliged to man their staffs with young Protestant gentlemen, because educated Catholics, in the sense of business men, are not to be found, I really cannot find an answer, unless I am privileged and empowered to contravene and deny that statement. The other objection is: That it would be inconsistent with our patriotism and independence to ask favours from a hostile government. Our members of Parliament, therefore, and our leading politicians, decline to ask a position for a young Catholic, or a fair percentage of the ‘loaves and fishes,’ which others are so eager to monopolise. But this is not asking a favour; it is demanding a right. We have just as much right to demand public or Governmental positions for our young Catholics, as to demand Home Rule, or a Catholic University. It makes no difference whatever, whether we are dealing with a hostile or a friendly government, whether it is Lord Aberdeen, or Lord Cadogan rules the Castle, whether it is a question of bank or board. We are neither mendicants nor time servers, when we demand for our young Catholics the right to positions in the emolumentary offices of their country, if, in other ways, they are qualified. Again let us learn from our opponents. You know that the Presbyterians of the North are a compact, perfectly united, well disciplined body, thoroughly organised, and moving with the precision of a machine at the beck or command of their leaders. Well, they hold Synods periodically, where ministers and laymen meet in conference, and over which their Moderator presides. At these secret consistories, for they are too wise to babble through the public press, everything is discussed. They are not troubled about questions of doctrine; they have full time for business. Their agents tell them from all parts of Ireland what is being done, what ought to be done. If there is a disability to be removed, a point to be gained, a post to be filled, a loan to be granted, a legal decision to be rescinded, a glebe house to be erected, property to be acquired, the possession of property to be legalised — all is discussed, without acrimony or jealousy. A decision is come to; and armed with that decision, the Moderator presents himself at the gates of the Castle. ‘We demand this Inspectorship on the Board of Works, this place in the Four Courts; we require this decision to be recalled, this grant to be disallowed; and behind me, are a quarter million of votes, and their representatives in the House of Commons.’ And does he


succeed? Invariably. Look at the latest question. ‘We won't have Roman Catholics educated; and you mustn't do it.’ That's all: and Mr. Balfour's generous private instincts are promptly extinguished. Compared with this silent strength, what are the vapourings of your public bodies, and the resolutions of your boards? I'll tell you. Materials for the waste-paper baskets of the House of Commons.

What then do I advocate? Aggression? No. Assertion? Yes. I say, come up from the catacombs, and assert your rights. Come up from the catacombs, and claim the rights of citizens. Your money is supporting the British Empire: your blood has been spilled to cement it; your talents go to consolidate it. If you are aliens, they have no right to tax you. If you are citizens, they have no right to oppress you. With the charity of our Church, and the kindliness of our race, we are glad to extend the hand of fellowship to our separated brethren; and Munster Catholics can claim the proud privilege that no where on the face of the earth is there more kindness, more good-fellowship, more tolerance towards our Protestant friends, than in the cities and towns of the great Southern province. But whilst we gladly concede privileges, we refuse monopolies. We shall not attack; but we must defend. And we are no longer prepared to expatriate the genius and the talent of our young Catholic countrymen, and see strangers occupying the honourable and emolumental positions, built up by subsidies extracted from the hands of Catholic ratepayers.

But, again, we must speak; and our voice must be weighted by all the force and energy that comes from an united and organised people. Hitherto, the isolation of individuals has made their protests as ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness.’ What we want is ‘the voice of many waters’ thundering from the lips of a people that claim emancipation from penalism, and freedom from disabilities.

But, whilst I should not advocate aggression in our social and political life, I should not be sorry, if our Catholic literature were a little more enterprising, and a little less apologetic, than it has been. Hitherto, we have been the patient butts of every kind of scurrility and profanity, levelled against the most sacred tenets of our faith. From the Oath of the Sovereign of England, down to the offensive tract, that is flung before servant girls and


school children, everything is a reviling and a mocking of our faith. And when the vials of scorn were poured upon us from the lips of agnostics and atheists, our agony was complete. Well, our vindication, I won't say, our revenge; has come. The proud Philistine boasts of a few years back, when Tyndall uttered his ultimatum to Christianity at Belfast have been subdued to the humble and stammering apologies of science to-day, and the secret confidences of its high priests in camera. ‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in our philosophy.’ And the pitiable condition of the Church of England, now more than ever the city of confusion, is exciting the laughter and ridicule of the world. If such a condition of things existed amongst us, if our bishops were dumb and speechless, whilst anarchy reigned around them, if we were told that our doctrines were made and unmade by Acts of Parliament, and if our comprehensiveness took in all kinds of clean and unclean things, we would be swept off the face of the earth by the scorn and satire of the British press. Imagine how the Times and the Saturday Review would gloat over our helplessness, and hold up our inconsistencies to the laughter of the world. Should we grasp our opportunity, and retort? Against unreason and irreligion? Yes! Against individuals? No. We cannot feel anything but scorn for that institution, which, deserving all the hardest things that its great Whig defender, Macaulay, could say of it, is now passing through the agony and death-throes of dissolution. We cannot feel anything but compassion and sympathy for the tens of thousands of good and excellent souls who see their homes and altars crumbling around them. Let them know that fairer homes and holier altars await them in the city of God. Time and God have vindicated tus. But, if the time for apologies and defences has gone, the time for apostleship has come. And our young apostles must be dowered, like the poet,
‘With the hate of hate, the scorn of scorn, the love of love.’5
Hate for everything that touches the sanctity of human souls, or the honour of God; scorn for these ephemeral and lying systems of human philosophy, that like envenomed reptiles spit out their spleen against God, and die; but love for everything pure and holy, and for all the sad souls that are sraining their eyes for the


light, yet walk in darkness as the noonday. Here is our mission and our destiny. The world is waking up to new ideas; and in Catholic countries the young are beginning to feel that they stand in the light of a fresh and prophetic dawn. In Germany (I wish we knew a little more of Germany) in all the university towns, Catholic clubs are being established. There is an ‘Association of German Catholic Students' Corporations,’ which ramifies from Berlin to Cologne. You have the ‘Novesia’ at Bonn, the ‘Sauerlandia’ at Münster, the ‘Cheruscia’ at Wurzburg, the ‘Rhenania’ at Fribourg, Switzerland, the ‘Armenia’ at Freiburg, Baden, the ‘Bavaria,’ just opened at Berlin. These will be centres of life and energy to Catholic Germany. Why cannot we have the same at home? But what do I say? We have them, thank God, in plenty. You cannot read the daily papers without seeing accounts of flourishing literary societies in Dublin and Cork; and am I not addressing to-night the Catholic Literary Institute of Limerick? And do I not know by the voice of your zealous and learned President, as well as by the voice of the press, of the splendid work you are accomplishing? Well, in the words of the Hebrew prophet: ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent, and stretch out the skins of thy Tabernacles. Spare not. Lengthen thy cords, and strengthten thy stakes.’6 In other words, widen the sphere of usefulness in this your historic city. Make your club the centre of light and leading to the rest of your citizens. Ideas rule the world, and are more powerful than empires and their armaments. I do not know in this distracted country of ours, where righteous ideas and correct principles are to be cradled for propagation, if not here and in similar societies. Great issues are at stake in our land; and we must rise up to meet and direct them. The destiny and vocation of our race is a purely spiritual and intellectual one; and in the far future, when, like all other material empires, the empires of to-day shall have met the fate of Assyria, and Babylon, and Rome, it may be that our race shall have a place in history as immortal as that of Israel or Greece; for armies melt away like that of Sennacherib, and fleets like the Armada, are the sports of winds and waves; and great cities, like Tyre and Sidon, are the abode of the stork and the basilisk; but ideas are


indestructible, and great thoughts are immortal, and great principles, enshrined in the history of a race, pass on to new generations with ever-increasing vivifying powers. Here is the only glory and immortality that we seek; and this it is our destiny to attain. But here, too, is the greatest of your social responsibilities.