Catholic Arena –
In recent months, one of the brighter aspects of the Catholic Church in Ireland has been the willingness of members of the clergy, and even some hierarchy, to embrace social media as a means of reaching new audiences. One of the most compelling examples of this has been the Brendan Option YouTube series involving Father Brendan Kilcoyne, as part of his work with Immaculata Productions.
Fr. Brendan’s videos are primarily composed of him delivering short but provocative videos on topics that are current within the church, specifically those that have attained some relevance or importance in Ireland. These have ranged from the Eucharist to the Eternal Judgement, with wit and humour to lighten the mood, ‘theological Chicken McNuggets’ as he calls them.
Many lay Catholics who attend events organised within the church will often comment that such events were often far more enjoyable in person than they had anticipated, yet this surprising geniality of our church has sometimes been difficult to transmit into social media. The admirable aspects of the Irish psyche have always been moulded by subtlety and meandering rather than directness, by anecdote rather than mere instruction, this is something that is easier to bring about in person rather than online. This characteristic is something that is the highlight of Fr. Kilcoyne’s new video, a discussion which takes place as part of the channel’s Conversation series, which has previously featured Declan Ganley.
The conversation in this case takes place opposite popular author John Waters. Waters was once a music journalist, the spirit of which seems to have lived within him long after that profession seems to have died off. He is now, as he states in the interview, a pariah of sorts in modern Ireland. But he wouldn’t have it any other way, for as he elaborates, he was born a pariah, an eccentric, one of those mid 20th Century Irish children who was living a 19th Century existence, no water, no electricity.
For Waters, he does wonder if he would’ve ended up like others had he a different upbringing, but like the country and the faith to which he holds dear, you cannot understand an entity without contemplating its past. He gives the powerful example of an uncle’s posture conveying the cultural memory of The Famine, expressing the subconscious ‘slavery’ that Padraig Pearse would later pick up on, something that Father Kilcoyne had also noticed.
At one point, Father Kilcoyne comments that the experience of being Irish has been forgotten or misplaced in the whole concept of being an Irish Catholic, for him it now seems to have become something that others regard as gauche, uncool. To this end, even Padraig Pearse has become largely forgotten by modern society, with both Waters and Father Kilcoyne rightly asserting that Pearse’s place is unique in Irish history, in not just his words, but his example, in his action and in his faith.
Pearse is the type of person who is at the heart of this discussion, to be Catholic or to be Irish is not to fit into a neat little box. John Waters recalls a debate with Christopher Hitchens wherein Hitchens remarked that Waters was unlike any Christian that he had encountered before, with Waters stating that that is because Hitchens chose to see what he wanted to see.
One cannot help but recall his article before the removal of the right to life of unborn children in 2018, Baby, the rock n’ roll spirit should be on your side, wherein Waters made connections between the rebelliousness and vivacity of the alternative music that he held dear, and the counter culturalism of the prolife movement. Christianity has now reached such a stage, one that Waters observed had been diagnosed by Jack Kerouac when the discussed the beat generation of the 1960s, short for beatific, a generation that the poet thought would become more spiritual, more holy, in spite of how they had been perceived. Kerouac certainly did in his own peculiar way, surrounded by nuns who cared for him after a reconversion to the faith from some Buddhist-Christian syncretism.
Such are the times we find ourselves in almost a half century out from that, everyone’s views are a mix of different traditions, cultures and often simply materialism and nothing else. The interview is a must watch, it is Waters at his very best, bringing the life of old Ireland to a new audience, with its filial warmth, loving devotion and historical hangups. As a boy, he listened to his father chat to the elders of the multigenerational Ireland of the past, now its Waters turn to pass on his wisdom about what has come before to those who were not around to see it.
Hopefully this is not the last interview that the two will do and perhaps such words may even serve to encourage others to think more deeply about their faith, their Irishness and the strained relationship of both with modern Globalised popular culture.