Thoughts on the 250th Birthday of Blessed Edmund Rice

Blessed Edmund Rice

God…is looking all the more earnestly and anxiously for big things from those who are faithful to Him still. He cannot, perhaps, gather a large army round His standard, but He wants every one in it to be a hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to Him.

COMMENT: I have used this quote from Fr Doyle several times in recent months, but no matter. Its message is always fresh for us and has a daily application to our lives.

I chose this quote for today because on this day 250 years ago, Blessed Edmund Rice was born in Callan, County Kilkenny. He was born at a time of great difficulty for the Church, as it struggled with the repression of the Penal Laws. I’m sure he never imagined how his life would turn out. I’m sure he never imagined that his young wife would die and that he would found two congregations of teaching brothers. I’m sure he never imagined the incredible good for souls and for the fabric of Irish society (and indeed in other countries) that would develop from his first makeshift school in Waterford in 1802. I’m sure he never imagined that, two centuries later, his work would be continued by others around the globe.

Blessed Edmund Rice was, in the words of Fr Doyle, “a hero, absolutely and lovingly devoted to Him”. When we give ourselves to God, He will use us in ways we may not imagine, and we can be taken down some very surprising paths. But if Blessed Edmund did not follow the Lord’s call, how many generations of boys would have been the poorer? If Fr Doyle did not follow where he was lead, how many soldiers would have died a lonelier death without his calming presence?

Ireland is bad at recognising and promoting saints. Only 1 Irish person (St Oliver Plunkett) has been canonised since the Council of Trent. It is important, therefore, that we recognise those Irish heroes of Catholicism and do our best to make them known and to imitate them in a way that fits with our state in life. That is why major milestones like a 250th birthday should be recognised and celebrated.

So, “happy birthday” to Blessed Edmund Rice and best wishes to the Presentation Brothers and to the Christian Brothers!