On St. Patrick's Day, we of the Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrate the glorious "Apostle of Ireland" and glory in our heritage as a people of culture and faith. We also remember what our ancestors have had to overcome to get where we are as a people today. Our Order's namesake originally materialized in Ireland during the vicious Penal Laws, in order to protect Catholic priests who were forbidden under penalty of imprisonment or death to celebrate the Mass. Irish Catholics constructed a narrow crucifix, today known as a "Penal Cross", designed to hide up their sleeves as they were not permitted any outward expression of the Catholic faith; sneeringly called "Popery" by the Protestants.
Here is some of what Irish Catholics were subjected to under Britain's Penal Laws which were in effect from 1691 until well into the nineteeth century:
The Irish Catholic was forbidden the exercise of his religion.
He was forbidden to receive education,
He was forbidden to enter a profession.
He was forbidden to hold public office.
He was forbidden to engage in trade or commerce.
He was forbidden to live in a corporate town or within five miles thereof.
He was forbidden to own a horse of greater value than five pounds.
He was forbidden to purchase land.
He was forbidden to lease land.
He was forbidden to accept a mortgage on land in security for a loan.
He was forbidden to vote.
He was forbidden to keep any arms for his protection.
He was forbidden to hold a life annuity.
He was forbidden to buy land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to receive a gift of land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit land from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to inherit anything from a Protestant.
He was forbidden to rent any land that was worth more than thirty shillings a year.
He was forbidden to reap from his land any profit exceeding a third of the rent.
He could not be guardian to a child.
He could not, when dying, leave his infant children under Catholic guardianship.
He could not attend Catholic worship.
He was compelled by law to attend Protestant worship.
He could not himself educate his child.
He could not send his child to a Catholic teacher.
He could not employ a Catholic teacher to come to his child.
He could not send his child abroad to receive education.
Irish-Americans had to deal with similar, albeit less formal, discrimination in the New World, when the Know-Nothings and "nativists" wanted the newly immigrated Irish out of "their" country. The Hibernians were formed again, to physically protect Church property which was under constant threat of vandalism and destruction.
If you're of Irish-Catholic descent and faith, spare a vote of thanks for the Ancient Order of Hibernians this St. Patrick's Day. Your freedoms as a people of culture and faith have been hard won.
ERIN GO BRAGH!
Daily Mass Readings