The Force of Religion
When Nelson Callahan points out the fact that the Irish were "culturally Catholic," he is not only stating the case correctly, but with kindness. The true Irish from Patrick's day on have been steadfast Catholics to the very marrow of their bones and no other race has so willingly paid such a fearsome price to retain its religion.
The Irishman's fidelity to his faith was and remains astounding. He has clung to his Catholic ways with a tenacity unmatched in the past. It was, in fact, this very clinging to the faith of their fathers that enabled the Irish of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries to overcome the persecutions, the poverty and pestilence visited upon them by their enemies, be they of barbaric or of royal bloodlines. They refused to be either annihilated or converted. The deep religious convictions of the Irish people gave them invincible strength. They were deprived of their leaders, their churches, their schools, their lands, their houses and their language, yet as a nation they swung forward, bound together in a triumphal march unprecedented in history.
So that one might better understand this triumphal march, it should be noted that in 1672, after Cromwell had wreaked his evil will upon the Irish, they numbered but a million souls. A century and a half later, when the Irish were to disperse themselves worldwide, the nation numbered seven million, having overcome wholesale slaughter, starvation, not to mention dispossessment of .....
their very homes. As an anonymous Irish historian wrote over 200 years ago: "The fools, the damned fools. They thought that by conquering our land they could as easily conquer our spirit. The fools, the damned fools."
Insert by the courtesy of Time-Life Books, Inc.